Why rewilding

To help local economies, help nature thrive and make our country a better place to be

We believe rewilding provides hope for the future. It can breathe life into our natural landscapes and struggling rural communities. Through rewilding we can start to reverse centuries of ecological damage. We can create new opportunities for people.

We have the opportunity right now to choose rewilding in some parts of the country. If we can get the scale right, and learn from people on the ground, we can chart a course to better times.

Rewilding needs new thinking, collaborative working and hard work to become a reality. But we believe it can be done, and that the rewards can be great – more jobs, more opportunities, more benefits... It’s an important land use choice. Why? For the following reasons…:

Help nature recover

Our ecosystems are broken and nature is struggling – with 56% of species in the UK in decline and 15% threatened with extinction. Biodiversity needs space to flourish.

Across Britain, many places where you would expect wildlife to thrive have been reduced to wet deserts. The seabed has been smashed and stripped of its living creatures. We’ve suffered more deforestation and lost more of our large mammals than any European country except Ireland.

We can’t build natural processes but we can help them re-assert themselves. For example, by reducing high populations of grazing animals to help natural woodlands grow. Or by reintroducing missing species to plug crucial gaps in the ecosystem. Or by letting rivers meander and follow their natural paths.

We need nature. We desperately need nature in Britain to recover.

Return missing species

Many important species have disappeared from Britain over the centuries. This includes numerous birds and mammals. Rewilding can help bring them back.

Rewilding is about letting nature flourish. Over the long term, it can help bring back important species such as beaver and lynx. These keystone species drive ecological processes. Their loss in Britain and around the world has impoverished our living systems. See our reintroductions page for more.

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Revitalise communities

Rewilding can empower rural communities to diversify their economies, and plan for a future with new opportunities and minimal reliance on grants and subsidies

Many of our most isolated rural areas are struggling with declining populations and few employment opportunities. They’re reliant on unreliable subsidies. Rewilding can help revitalise communities through new tourism and entrepreneurial ventures.

We already know that wildlife tourism generates income. In Scotland, the osprey is estimated to bring in £3.5 million a year. A pair of ospreys breeding at the RSPB Cors Dyfi reserve in Wales draws in around £350,000 a year locally. Visitors travelling to Finland to see brown bear and wolverine boosted the economy by €4-5 million in 2012. The reintroduction of griffon and cinereous vultures has been attracting 80,000 visitors each year to France.

Rewilding takes it a step further. It brings nature back to life in a way that excites people. It draws people in to connect with nature – to find peace or adventure, relax or re-energise, explore or rest. Rewilding areas provide opportunities for outdoor activities such as walking, viewing wildlife, hunting, fishing, and more. These create spin-off business opportunities that can attract people to live close to wild areas.

Examples from around the globe demonstrate this. World-class tourist destinations have been established where nature has been allowed to flourish. These areas generate income, provide long-term economic stability and enhance natural capital. Read about nature-based economies. 

Look after ourselves

Naturally functioning ecosystems are better at preventing floods, storing carbon, and providing us with clean air, water. food and fuel 

Most of us know that trees absorb carbon and give us oxygen to breathe. But nature gives us even more than that. Trees also absorb huge amounts of rainfall. The Pontbren woodland and tree planting scheme in Wales showed that water sinks into the soil under trees at 67 times the rate at which it sinks into the soil under grass. This means the water doesn’t run straight off surfaces to cause flooding havoc downstream.

Natural woodlands with a diverse range of funghi, plant and animal life are a rich source of food, medicine and fuel. They have also been shown to absorb way more CO2 than monoculture commercial plantations.

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Certain species play key roles in ecosystem services – the beaver, for example. Beavers build canals and dams that act like giant sponges, reducing flood impact and preserving water supplies in the drier months. Their dams trap silt, slowing the build-up of sediment and reducing the expensive need to dredge rivers.

The work of beavers, like peatlands, helps clean the water that often ends up in our reservoirs. Their ponds create a home for an array of amphibians and their spawn, otters, water voles, birds, bats and all kinds of insects.

Keep us healthy

Experiencing wild nature helps reconnect people with the living planet. This improves our health and wellbeing, and builds a shared sense of humanity.

A report (PDF) published by Mind confirms the positive impact of exposure to the natural environment. This includes enhanced mood and self-esteem as well as reduced feelings of anger, confusion and depression. A study published in The Atlantic showed that even a short walk in nature reduces depression, anxiety and blood pressure.

A positive legacy

Rewilding offers a big opportunity to leave our landscapes and rural communities in a better state than they are today, for the benefit of future generations

Rewilding is about helping nature and people. It offers the opportunity for both to take positive steps to a better future. But it won’t just happen. Rewilding is a choice like any other type of land management. Landowners and communities need to make the decision to rewild and look to the long term.