The Rewilding Network – Spearheading Rapid Rewilding Across Britain

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Logo: Rewilding Britain

Sara King, Rewilding Britain Network Lead

Pigs digging at the Knepp Estate (Sara King)
Pigs kickstarting natural processes at the Knepp Estate (Sara King)

Interest in rewilding has boomed and is at levels never seen before. It has captured the imagination of so many, including landowners looking to reframe their approach to managing their land. The concept of rewilding, however, is still relatively new and is about relinquishing our control to let nature dominate. There are no set outcomes or management prescriptions, and habitats will constantly change when natural processes are given the space to lead the way. At Rewilding Britain, we are developing a new Rewilding Network aimed to provide practical advice and guidance, connect landowners with each other for a joined up approach, and support action on the ground.

The World We Want to See

The world we want to see is a world where wildlife flourishes, reconnecting us with the natural world, sustaining communities and tackling the species extinction crisis and climate emergency. We want to live in a world where we face up to the scale of destruction we are heaping on Earth, put an end to further degradation and start to recover what we’ve lost. Rewilding is one of the solutions to kick-start nature recovery, and is the large-scale restoration of ecosystems to the point where nature can take care of itself. It has a vital role to play in the challenges we face.

To achieve this nature recovery, Rewilding Britain are calling for:

  • At least 5% of Britain in core rewilding
  • At least 25% of Britain returned to broader mosaics of nature-friendly land uses— including farming, forestry and fishing.

We see this expansion reversing biodiversity loss and enabling nature to bounce back, helping us all to adapt to climate change as our complex ecosystems find their own answers. By protecting, restoring and regenerating species-rich mosaics of habitats, rewilding helps reverse biodiversity loss and bring back the abundance of Britain’s wildlife.

White storks in the nest on the Knepp Estate (Sara King)
White storks on the Knepp Estate (Sara King)

Rewilding and nature friendly farming land uses including permaculture, regenerative agriculture, and agroforestry can all contribute to nature’s recovery. A diversity of approaches within a landscape are key to creating habitat mosaics that support a buzz of wildlife abundance, especially where nature friendly practices are combined with rewilding areas. Rewilding is most suitable within marginal land of low productivity – these are the areas where rewilding thrives and can create a whole range of high quality opportunities for wildlife. Rewilding itself can also be undertaken at a range of scales and along a rewilding spectrum. From small scale marginal land, to larger scale landscape initiatives – we encourage landowners to consider a strategy where they can go one step wilder, and incorporate these areas into their land.

The Rewilding Network

Now is the time to catalyse rewilding in Britain. To do this, we will be launching a new network to connect rewilders, provide resources for shared learning, and build an evidence base for the impact of rewilding on wildlife and people.

We understand that here is no ‘one size fits all’ for rewilding. Nor is it about land abandonment. Anyone looking to start rewilding are likely to struggle to find a handbook that will provide them with a rewilding strategy for their land. Rewilding projects do not have management plans, with set outcomes or management prescriptions. One of the exciting things about rewilding is to let nature take the reins and lead the way. This is also, understandably, a very scary thing for a landowner or project manager to accept – there is a lot of uncertainty associated with taking the leap to rewilding. Our ambition is to create a network where landowners considering rewilding can speak to other rewilders, learn about their experiences (good and bad), access practical resources and events, and information to support them in their decision. Resources will include information about funding and finance, nature based enterprise, grazing strategies and carbon. Our new discussion forum will build a community of rewilders, and allow landowners to connect with others in their area. Local groups are also being established that can provide additional support at the local level. It will be a unique opportunity to connect, build a resource of information, and a support network for landowners on their rewilding journey.

We know that we have less than a decade to turn the tide on nature declines and to address the climate emergency. As we enter the UN decade of Ecosystem Restoration, we want to support and encourage change on the ground and promote the pioneering and exciting projects that are already happening. At the time of writing, our rewilding network map has 10 local groups helping to co-ordinate an joined up approach to rewilding at the local level, and 21 rewilding projects covering an area of 216,385 acres, with more to come. There is a diversity of approaches already being showcased, including military sites, upland sites, nature reserves, and areas where regenerative agriculture sites next to rewilding areas. We are also including marine rewilding projects, so that we can show how rewilding can be approached from the uplands all the way to our coasts and beyond. This is just the tip of the iceberg! We have also had over 350 smaller scale projects approach us expressing their interest in joining the network. We aim to inspire others through providing information about what other projects are doing. The before and after photo of Carrifran, one of our member projects, shows what rewilding can achieve in a relatively short space of time.

Rewilding Carrifran in Scotland, Before work to rewild the area (Borders Forest Trust)
Rewilding Carrifran in Scotland, Before and After (Borders Forest Trust)
Rewilding Carrifran in Scotland, After works to rewild the area (Borders Forest Trust)

People power is what’s needed to radically shape a better future. The actions of thousands of people can help breathe new life into our depleted landscapes and ecosystems, and lock up missions of tones of carbon.

We will be launching the Rewilding Network in the coming weeks, but we have already started to build a community of rewilders sharing their experiences and ideas. Our hope is that this will expand to support rewilding at all scales across Britain. The network will provide support and resources, but landowners and NGOs will also need access to expertise to provide tailored advice on their rewilding sites from ecologists on the ground with the appropriate skills.

Rewilding Network Map of Projects and Local Groups (Rewilding Britain)
Rewilding Network Map of Projects and Local Groups (Rewilding Britain)

Building our Evidence Base

The impact of rewilding on biodiversity, communities and local economies is under-recorded. Although many rewilding projects undertake biodiversity monitoring on their sites, there is no unified framework for monitoring rewilding. Through the network, we are aiming to build our evidence base and understanding of the role of rewilding in nature recovery, as well as supporting resilient rural economies and communities. This will help to influence policy, but will also provide a robust basis for showcasing the impact of rewilding.

My hope is for the network to provide a unified voice showcasing how we can rewild our countryside, and the exciting nature based enterprises that can arise from wild land.

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Posted On: 26/01/2021

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