SCOTTISH “citizen rewilders” have helped a crowdfunder reach its target in just one month of its three-month campaign.

More than £500,000 has been raised for the unique project, which offers mass co-ownership of part of the Highlands.

So-called “citizen rewilders” are being invited to invest to support Highlands Rewilding’s goal to combat climate meltdown and biodiversity collapse.

The company also wants to restore temperate rainforest in Argyll and has a time-dependent offer to acquire 1300 hectares on the Tayvallich peninsula if enough capital can be raised by the end of February.

Welcoming the news of the crowdfunder sum, founder and CEO Jeremy Leggett said he had been “blown away” by the support.

“We are so encouraged by the support we have received from the nation’s citizen rewilders so far and thank every single investor for their support,” said the former Greenpeace scientific director. “Every pound really does count in enabling us to grow and expand the Highlands Rewilding model. We hope many more Scots will choose to join us in our quest.”

He added: “There has never been a more pivotal time for the nation to consider how nature recovery can support our world’s future, especially as the 30-by-30 deal has been reached at COP15 which makes a giant leap in conserving our land, freshwater and ocean globally. It acts as a hopeful exemplar of how grassroots projects like Highlands Rewilding can help governments meet their targets to safeguard vital ecosystems by the end of the decade.”

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Dr Leggett bought the 1200-acre Bunloit Estate near Loch Ness in 2020, following the sale of his firm Solarcentury, which brought solar panels to the mass market.

In 2021, he added the 860-acre Beldorney Estate, near Huntly in Aberdeenshire, after raising £7.5m from 50 investors from across the globe, including Slumdog Millionaire screenwriter Simon Beaufoy, former CEO of SSE, Ian Marchant and former CEO of Unilever, Paul Polman.

By managing land for carbon and biodiversity uplift, Highlands Rewilding aims not only to provide shareholders with ethical returns of at least 5% annually over 10 years but also to create a model capable of encouraging other landowners to pivot to net-zero carbon and nature-positive practices.

The Inverness-shire-based firm won the prestigious 2022 VIBES and Nature of Scotland awards for Adapting Scotland and Business for Nature, respectively.

As well as the crowdfunder, investments are also expected from equity investors and financial institutions. No funding limit has been set for the entirety of the Highlands Rewilding fundraiser, but the organisation is aiming to raise at least eight million plus.

With the funds raised from the new campaign, the company intends to acquire South Bunloit, Beldorney Castle and one other estate that provides biodiversity opportunities. If a significantly higher amount is raised, the team aims to acquire more or larger estates to widen nature-recovery opportunities.

Additional funding would also take the team a step closer to fulfilling its long-term goals of offering corporate nature recovery retreats on each estate, the creation of eco-buildings, including zero-carbon energy-affordable housing and furthering their scientific research.

“After two and a half years of operations in our start phase, we have a strong and growing team, deep roots in our local communities, and a rapidly expanding core of cutting-edge science,” said Dr Leggett.

“Our intention is to become a world-class open laboratory for natural-capital verification science and demonstrate that natural capital can be grown verifiably for planet, people, and profit, both in wildland and actively managed land.”