By Anders Lorenzen
Interest in rewilding – the practice of giving back land to nature and to farm less intensively – is surging across the UK according to the charity and rewilding body Rewilding Britain.
The organisation is planning to capitalise on this increased interest by massively scaling up UK rewilding projects through the creation of a national rewilding network which they say will contribute to tackling the nature and climate emergencies and provide a boost to a COVID-19 green recovery.
Public interest in rewilding on the rise
According to Rewilding Britain, the public interest in rewilding is surging across the UK and they have been receiving unprecedented levels of requests for guidance. During the course of the last year, more than 50 landowners with almost 200,000 acres of land between have been formed partnerships with each other and thousands of smaller-scale land managers, gardeners, individuals and local groups.
Rewilding projects sprouting up across the UK
There are already several established initiatives such as the Wild Ken Hill Farm in Norfolk which is rewilding 1,000 acres as well as managing 2,000 acres of regenerative agriculture and 500 acres of freshwater set to benefit people, wildlife and the climate.
In Scotland, in Dumfries and Galloway, the Langholm Initiative is aiming to create a new nature reserve on Langholm Moor by purchasing 10,500 acres of wildlife-rich and culturally important land – jointly valued at £6 million – from Buccleuch Estates, in one of Scotland’s largest community buyouts.
And then there is the well known rewilding project, the Knepp Wildlife Safari, on the Knepp estate in West Sussex south of London described in Isabella Tree’s book Wilding.
Rewilding is also about connecting people
Rewilding Britain has noted that despite the huge interest in rewilding, many stakeholders who are keen to get started don’t know where to start as there is a distinct lack of meaningful information available. This is the reason the charity has taken the steps to set up a rewilding network spanning the whole of the UK to connect landowners and create opportunities for the collaboration and sharing of ideas. They say that farmers with land as well as charities, government bodies and other stakeholders need support to get things going. The aim of the new network is to create, what they describe as, a ‘rewilding snowball effect’ by bringing together hundreds of people from across the UK who are thinking of or are in the process of rewilding land.
The network has started out boldly, with the goal of rewilding at least 300,000 acres of land, equivalent to the size of Greater Manchester, as well as equivalent marine areas within the next three years.
Urgent action is needed to prevent ecological breakdown
In recent years campaigners have warned that 56% of UK wildlife species are in decline and 15% are threatened with extinction. Red squirrels, capercaillie, and pollinating insects such as the great yellow bumblebee are among many species facing a bleak future, while returns or rebounds of species like beavers, sea eagles and pine martens are happening slowly. Rewilding Britain says that in order to prevent as well as reverse the collapse of UK wildlife and prevent climate breakdown bold action is needed.
Their Chief Executive, Rebecca Wrigley, said: “We need to hit the reset button for our relationship with the natural world, and rebuild our lives and economies in ways that keep nature and us healthy.”
Autumn launch of the national rewilding network
Rewilding Britain is working towards launching its’ rewilding network in the autumn which will give the public more opportunities to get involved in projects either with their own land or through local groups or volunteering.
To achieve this, they have launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise £25,000 to cover start-up costs and the creation of an innovative online hub offering support, videos and webinars. They met that initial target in just one week.
“Rewilding is about letting nature do its thing and take care of itself, but it’s also about people. People lie at the heart of rewilding, and people need to choose to rewild to make it happen. The Rewilding Network will be Britain’s first learning and action network dedicated to supporting people who want to put rewilding into practice” Wrigley said.
No loss to productive farmland
Rewilding Britain is keen to underline that rewilding large areas across the UK, such as native forests, woodlands, peatlands, rivers, moorlands and saltmarshes, can be done by boosting nature-friendly farming and is possible to achieve without the loss of productive farmland.
The charity’s goal is for rewilding to flourish across the UK to help tackle the climate emergency and extinction crisis, reconnect people with nature, and inspire individuals and communities through new opportunities that help them thrive.
Climate advocates like Christiana Figueres, the former head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), have long suggested that we urgently need to transition our farming methods to regenerative agriculture to avoid climate and ecological breakdown.
You can support the crowdfunding campaign here.