To have wolves at Alladale would be the culmination of nearly two decades of Lister’s life spent rewilding Alladale. Indeed, reintroducing wolves to rewild the area was Lister’s sole reason for purchasing Alladale.
But there was another reason at play too. Lister is the heir to Britain’s MFI Group, a quite successful furniture retailer in the latter half of the last century. There’s a funny statistic that’s often quoted about MFI -- at one point in the 1970s, 60 percent of British children were conceived in an MFI bed.
But how do you make furniture? By cutting down trees.
So Alladale can be viewed as Lister’s redemption story of sorts, his way of giving back to the land and making up for the sins of his father’s company. But Lister doesn’t see it as simply as this. Conservation is not some charity effort he does in his spare time. It’s his full-time job.
In 2000 he established The European Nature Trust, which focuses on environmental and educational projects in Romania, Italy, and Spain, as well as Scotland. A small percentage of bookings made at Alladale go towards TENT to fund conservation programs at the reserve.
“I don’t have kids and I probably won’t ever have them,” Lister said. (At 59, he’s unmarried but in a relationship.) “I’d rather look after nature because we need nature. Nature does not need us. And I’m afraid all those other charities in the world, you can forget about them. Because if we don’t have oxygen, water, air, and good soil, there is nothing else.”
As for the wolves, Lister stressed he would be happy to see the wolves anywhere in Britain, be it at Alladale or a neighboring land or down in Wales. “We are in consultation with three different land owners nearby,” he said. “We want to hedge our bets. We don’t want to think it’s only going to happen here.”
Lister is also completely realistic about the fact that rewilding is a long-game, one that won’t be achieved during his lifetime, but rather a hundred years from now -- if things go well.
“In the meantime, we go about doing our work here building the habitat and trying to build up the species list, and then trees grow and more butterflies, birds and bugs come back,” Lister said. Keeping in theme, Alladale employs sustainable living practices within the lodge and cottages, such as composting and sourcing local ingredients and services. An aquaponic garden is currently under construction.
While Alladale works on its wolf pack, Lister said that he hopes visitors who come to Scotland for the golf courses, whisky distilleries, and ancient castles, also realize the importance of saving the land.
“A guest staying in the cottage this week came up to me and said, ‘I want to thank you for what you’re doing for the environment,’” Lister recounted. “He’s had a switch go off this week that makes him realize someone is doing something here that he’s going to benefit from. And I would like everyone to have that switch go off in them.”