New network to spearhead rapid rewilding across Britain

The new project which plans to spearhead rapid and massive upscaled rewilding will be launched by Rewilding Britain later this year, to tackle the nature and climate emergencies, and help boost green recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.

With nature faring worse in the UK than in most other countries, and many people wanting Britain to ‘build back better’ from the coronavirus pandemic, the charity’s new Rewilding Network will aim to create a rewilding snowball effect by bringing together hundreds of people from across Britain.

Landowners, farmers, land managers, community groups and local authorities will also join together in helping to rewild land.

Initially the Network will aim to catalyse and support the rewilding of at least 300,000 acres of land (about the size of Greater Manchester or North York Moors National Park) plus marine areas within the next three years.

View over regenerating woodland alongside Loch Affric, Glen Affric, Scotland. (@ScotlandBigPicture)

Rewilding Britain says bold action is needed to reverse the collapse in UK wildlife, which has left 56% of species in decline and 15% threatened with extinction, and to tackle climate breakdown.

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 showing encouraging signs of increasing.

“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,” said Rebecca Wrigley, Rewilding Britain’s Chief Executive.

“Our Rewilding Network will help propel rewilding to a whole new level – so we can all begin to enjoy a Britain rich in wildlife again, with healthy living systems soaking up millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide, and our lives enriched by wild nature and strong resilient communities, regenerative farms and nature-friendly businesses.”

The Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) is considered to be one of many species in danger of extinction. (Mark Hamblin)

Rewilding Britain says interest in rewilding has “boomed” and that it is receiving “unprecedented levels” of requests for guidance.

Over the last year alone, over 50 landowners and partnerships with almost 200,000 acres of land between them have joined in, as well as thousands of smaller-scale land managers, gardeners, individuals and local groups. 

The many farms and projects liaising with Rewilding Britain include Wild Ken Hill farm in Norfolk, which is rewilding 1,000 acres – alongside managing 2,000 acres of regenerative agriculture and 500 acres of freshwater marsh – to benefit people, wildlife and the climate.

The farm is also aiming to show how rewilding can improve air and water quality, and help farmers reinvigorate their businesses.

In Dumfries and Galloway, the Langholm Initiative charity aims to create a new nature reserve on Langholm Moor by purchasing 10,500 acres of wildlife-rich and culturally important land, which is jointly valued at £6 million, from Buccleuch Estates, in one of Scotland’s largest community buyouts.

Rewilding Britain says that while increasing numbers of people across the country want to rewild or help others to rewild, there are many who don’t know how to get started, with a lack information or don’t know if others in their area are also rewilding.

The charity has already been connecting up landowners in areas like Cornwall, Oxfordshire, Yorkshire and southern Scotland, and believes the potential for collaborating and sharing ideas is “clear”.

The Wild Ken Hill rewilding area in Norfolk is one of the farms getting involved. (Rewilding Britain)

Farmers, charities, government bodies and others often also need support to build mechanisms in place to support nature’s recovery in a way that also boosts livelihoods.

The Rewilding Network is hoping to “harness the growing enthusiasm” for rewilding and support projects of all sizes and all stages of rewilding by providing expert practical help and advice, and being a place for discussion, sharing knowledge and ideas, and developing community action.

The Network is scheduled to launch later this year and plans to “catalyse larger and better-connected rewilding areas” while “ensuring [there are] more opportunities” for people to get involved in rewilding.

Rewilding Britain has launched a crowdfunding appeal to raise £25,000 to cover what it calls the Network’s “start-up costs” which will include an “online resource offering individual support, videos and webinars, and for strengthening connections between rewilding projects countrywide”.

The Network plans to be mainly free to access with membership subscriptions also an option.

“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,” said Rebecca Wrigley.

The project hopes to restore nature on a huge scale across Britain’s land and sea – including native forests and woodlands, peatlands, rivers, moorlands and saltmarshes, and to boost nature-friendly farming.

Rewilding Britain wants rewilding to “flourish” across Britain, while fighting to tackle the climate emergency and extinction crisis, reconnecting people with nature, and inspiring individuals and communities through new opportunities that help them thrive.

You can learn more about the Rewilding Network crowdfunding appeal on their website.

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