Four rewilding principles for restoring ecosystems and our relationship with them

Rewilding is all about people and natural processes working at scale for the long-term.

At Rewilding Britain, we define rewilding according to four key principles.

These principles guide our approach to rewilding:

1: People, communities and livelihoods are key.

Rewilding embraces the role of people – and their cultural and economic connections to the land – working within a wider, healthy ecosystem.

Rewilding is a choice of land management. It relies on people making a collective decision to explore an alternative future for the land.

Those who own and derive their income from the land are central to making this decision. Rewilding acknowledges their role as stewards of a healthy natural ecosystem and provides new opportunities for young people to stay in their communities.

While human impact is minimised in core rewilding areas, people may still engage through, for example, nature-based enterprises or wildlife experiences. In surrounding buffers areas, the sustainable harvesting of timber, animals (hunting and fishing) and plants (such as berries, nuts and so on) all provide productive alternatives.

Rewilding can help people experience the wonder and enchantment of wild nature. Being in wild places can help improve health and wellbeing, and deliver a range of social benefits for youth development, youth at risk or conflict resolution.

2: Natural processes drive outcomes.

Rewilding seeks to reinstate natural processes – for example, the free movement of rivers, natural grazing, habitat succession and predation. It is not geared to reach any human-defined optimal point or end state. It goes where nature takes it.

This natural process-led approach seeks to complement, rather than replace, existing product-based conservation approaches.

Management is only necessary in core areas where natural processes are missing. This may involve supportive measures to kick start natural processes or help in bringing back wildlife species in more natural numbers.

The reintroduction of missing species may be a necessary part of rewilding where it’s needed to achieve the full range of natural processes and healthy functioning ecosystems. The potential of any reintroduction will take account of the natural historical range of those species, and always be agreed in consultation with communities and landowners.

3: Working at nature’s scale is essential.

Rewilding requires working at sufficient scale to allow nature to be the driver for change, reinstate natural processes and create ecologically coherent units.

This scale will vary according to local opportunity. In the Scottish Highlands and the Borders, for example, the scale has the potential to be larger than in Wales and England.

Rewilding areas can consist of a core zone, where there is focus on enabling fullest function of natural processes, as well as buffer zones where some forms of productive activity are permitted – for example, sustainable forestry.

4: Benefits are secured for the long-term.

Rewilding is an opportunity to leave a positive legacy for future generations. The continued, long-term benefits of rewilding areas should be secured.

Rewilding operates at a scale larger than that of any single land holding. So securing these benefits requires effective collaboration between multiple owners and communities in a way that brings collective benefit.

The featured beaver photo is via Adobe Stock.

This article originally appeared on the Rewilding Britain website. Reprinted with permission.

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