A Collaborative Approach for Rewilding Success

Ayres Simon

A Collaborative Approach for Rewilding Success

Simon Ayres MICFor, independent forestry consultant and chair of the Wild Land Foundation, looks at the recent dialogue on rewilding and suggests a collaborative approach.

Rewilding has captured our attention recently, following the publication of George Monbiot’s book Feral. The ICF-hosted lecture given by Monbiot last June in Edinburgh generated a good deal of interest. Rob Yorke’s July blog on the ICF website provides some useful comments with regards to bringing some realism into the discussions on rewilding, and making sure that rural communities and professions are not alienated by rewilding propositions.

I have been involved with discussions on rewilding and promoting wildland values for about a decade, through involvement with the Wildland Network and the charity Wales Wild Land Foundation. More recently I have contributed to the setting up of a new organisation to promote rewilding in the UK, to be launched later this year. The ideas and issues now being discussed under the rewilding label are familiar to a network of professionals and academics from previous contributions by writers and conference delegates. See for example Beyond Conservation (2005) and Rewilding (2011). The difference Monbiot has made is to bring rewilding into the public limelight.

Building Bridges

There has been a mixed reaction to Monbiot’s input in the rewilding world. The increased public interest in rewilding is undoubtedly welcome, however, some of the views expounded by George can be considered unhelpful, as Rob Yorke has outlined. References to elephants and other megafauna, and sweeping criticisms of the farming industry and nature conservation are effective at attracting publicity and initiating debate. However, if we want to see rewilding succeed, we have the task of building or repairing some bridges, because it won’t happen without the co-operation of the people living and working on the land.

The timing of Feral was interesting, being published almost on the same day as the State of Nature report on the staggering loss of wildlife in UK over the last 50 years, essentially demonstrating that nature conservation efforts have not been working. The ideas proposed by rewilding interests should provide substantial benefits for wildlife: restoring natural habitats over large areas; corridors of unexploited land, for example alongside watercourses; and reintroduction programmes for locally extinct species.

At the same time, modern farming and forestry methods have been identified as major contributors to the decline in biodiversity. Since most land will continue to be in productive use, these industries will have to play their part in making the landscape more hospitable for other species. The use of pesticides is probably the single most significant problem, where they unselectively kill a wide range of insects, which include pollinators and food for birds and other animals.

A New Venture in Habitat and Species Restoration

Wales Wild Land Foundation / Sefydliad Tir Gwyllt Cymru is a new charity established to carry out projects which directly enhance wildlife through habitat and species restoration. We have been controlling invasive plants along riverbanks: we are seeking funding to lead a coordinated approach to invasive plants in three local catchments. We will provide volunteer beaver managers to assist with the proposed beaver re-introduction to the Rheidol catchment.

The charity’s main project is Cambrian Wildwood / Coetir Anian which aims to restore a substantial area of native woodland and other habitats in the Cambrian Mountains and lead on species reintroduction programmes, starting with pine marten and red squirrel. We are currently seeking donations and other funds to buy our first property, and are hoping to work with Natural Resources Wales in neighbouring Welsh Government woodland. The organisation is grounded in the local community and is committed to engaging with other landowners and countryside interests to avoid conflict and establish shared benefits.

Horsey Russell

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