Where we are, and where we’re going — Autumn update

Rebecca Wrigley and Alastair Driver share updates about the parliamentary debate of our petition, smaller scale rewilding, and the Summit to Sea project.

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A parliamentary debate — finally!

We’re excited to announce that the UK Parliament will be debating our petition Restore nature on a massive scale to help stop climate breakdown” at 4.30pm on Monday 28th October 2019.

Earlier this year more than 100,000 people signed our parliamentary petition asking the UK Government to support the restoration of nature on a massive scale. Then things got very weird in the corridors of power and the debate we expected to happen before the summer recess failed to appear. But the date is finally in the diary.

With your help, we can encourage MPs to join the debate and learn more about the huge potential that nature restoration has for helping us meet the challenges of the climate crisis. As the Extinction Rebellion protests in London come to an end, we hope this debate will give our political representatives an opportunity to voice their support and take real action on this defining issue of our age.

Of course, we’ll be working hard behind the scenes to ensure that as many MPs as possible are aware of the debate, have seen our report: Rewilding and Climate Breakdown’, and make their support of our recommendations known. Alastair Driver, our Director, will be there in person, talking to as many policymakers and MPs as he can and we will be helping to host a drop-in session for MPs who want to find out more. Alastair will be updating Rewilding Britain’s Twitter account throughout the day.

How you can help

If you’d like to help get this important subject on your MP’s radar, there are three things you can do:

And don’t forget you’ll be able to watch the debate live online at UK Parliament TV Youtube channel.

A new era for Summit to Sea

Wild Media Peatland

Summit to Sea – O’r Mynydd i’r Môr in Welsh — aims to connect a nature-rich area stretching from the Pumlumon massif to the Dyfi estuary and into Cardigan Bay, boosting the local economy through opportunities for new and varied nature-based enterprises and forms of production. It is a five-year collaborative project which aims to restore a flourishing environment and economy across mid Wales by offering grants and support to local businesses and organisations that share the vision.

Now that the project is fully underway, we are stepping aside from Summit to Sea, to allow the project to move forward and to thrive. We hope it will be a tremendous success.

Our role so far

Rewilding Britain played a key role in securing £3.4 million for Summit to Sea in 2018, and we have played a short-term role leading the project’s formation. We’ve been proud to help make the project a reality and to get it up and running.

Our role is to help catalyse and support projects get off the ground. One of our key principles is that local organisations and communities should be at the heart of this process. We’ve learnt some invaluable lessons about how to do this in the most effective way, which we’re committed to putting into practice elsewhere.

Why are we stepping away now?

While it was always intended that the project should be locally-led, and that our role was only short term, the decision for Rewilding Britain to move on at this moment reflects the views of some local people and farming unions who were unhappy at our involvement.

Community views are at the heart of Summit to Sea and how we want to work at Rewilding Britain. To succeed, Summit to Sea has to be both locally led and supported by the community, as it finds ways to help both people and nature to thrive.

The project’s steering group — which is formed from representatives of all of the partner organisations involved in the project — took on board concerns raised by local people over the past year. Together we agreed it was important to make changes to how Summit to Sea is managed, and we felt the time was right for Rewilding Britain to step aside from the project. We hope those who were concerned about our involvement will now be able to support the initiative going forwards.

Why were people so concerned?

There is passionate debate around what rewilding is and how it might work in practice in different parts of the UK. For some, Summit to Sea’s associations with rewilding and Rewilding Britain were felt to be incompatible with their own hopes for mid-Wales. It’s not for us to speak for those people – but it is important that we listen to and respect their views, and that we learn lessons.

Rewilding is a challenging idea for many people, and it’s up to us to work alongside communities to demonstrate that rewilding can bring multiple benefits and is not a threat. People – and their cultural and economic connections to the land – are central to that.

When people’s livelihoods and culture are tied to the land, sometimes for hundreds of years, their views on the future of the land are key. Farmers and rural communities have faced risks to their livelihoods for decades, and are understandably concerned about what the future brings.

What lessons have we learned?

There has been a lot of information in circulation, some of which was incorrect or misconstrued. There was never a plan to reintroduce bears or wolves to the area, for example. And the project is not about telling people what they should do with the land — or about buying land up. The project is simply looking for more nature, diversity, and opportunities for people. Our communication and engagement with local communities about this issue and others should have been better.

Face-to-face meetings and workshops were held over a period of 18 months to involve people locally in the project’s design. This included with farming unions, community members, local businesses, government bodies and other important stakeholders. However, we should have been more proactive in speaking to a wider range of people more generally.

We’re committed to putting these lessons into practice as we move on to focus on catalysing and supporting large-scale nature restoration projects elsewhere.

What’s happening next?

Summit to Sea now has three Welsh speaking staff on the ground in the Dyfi Valley, and the team recently launched a 12-month community engagement process to ramp up interaction with local people as plans for the project evolve.

Feedback from community members has played a central part in how the project is being shaped and adapted. Those who work and live on the land know it best,so it’s key that they are at the centre of the project’s decisions. The Summit to Sea team is now working hard to strengthen communication, to develop a project that benefits wildlife, nature and people. The team is keen to work alongside the community to move forward together to build a sustainable future that is in the best interests of all involved.

You can keep updated with Summit to Sea’s progress through their website, where you can also sign up for newsletter updates:

http://www.summit2sea.wales/ /​http://www.ormynyddirmor.cymru

The Summit to Sea partnership is now made up of Marine Conservation Society, Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust, PLAS Marine Special Area of Conservation, RSPB, The Woodland Trust, WWF, and Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

We wish Summit to Sea every success. We know there’s huge potential for people, culture, the local economy and wildlife to thrive together in mid Wales.

Rewilding — all the pieces matter

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Our vision is to see at least one million hectares in Britain supporting natural ecological processes for the benefit of people and nature. That’s about 4% of the land we have in Britain. Our mission is to demonstrate a model for rewilding that works at a scale new to Britain while providing opportunities for communities to flourish.

We have been very focused on landscape-scale restoration of nature — because we realise this vision (and this mission) requires us to think and act big. We have tended to focus on supporting those with 10,000 or more hectares of land.

However, we also know that sometimes good things come in small packages. When we contacted many of our supporters at the start of summer through our Supporters Survey — we heard how there’s a big appetite for people with smaller parcels of land to get involved in rewilding and letting nature take its course with minimal intervention.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that these smaller spaces, if there are enough of them, could add up to significant land coverage, and create significant change.

In the last year or so we’ve been contacted by more than 50 private landowners or landowning organisations who between them have as much as 35,000 ha of land which they are already rewilding or are seriously considering rewilding — often as a direct result of our advice or information. Of these there are about 30 between 15 ha and 400 ha in size, and 20 that are over 400 ha (1000 acres).

So in the coming months you’ll be hearing more from us about how we can support this smaller-scale rewilding work. We hope to create a network of learning and also provide useful resources — or signposting to other organisations — that can help get rewilding happening at any scale. It’s early days, we’re still a small organisation, and this will take time. But we’re excited to be starting this work with your help.

Watch this space for more information and drop us a line if you want to know more.