Wilder National Parks

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A fifth of Britain’s species could be saved from decline or extinction by increasing the scale, quality and connectedness of habitats nationwide

83% of Brits want wilder national parks

Despite some superb conservation initiatives, our national parks are nature-depleted and ecological shadows of what they could be. We want to see them teeming with wildlife, where healthy ecosystems help absorb carbon and control flooding, and local people thrive.

We are calling on the UK Government and devolved administrations to make Britain’s national parks wilder — including 10% core rewilding areas – so that these precious places can play a vital role in tackling the extinction crisis and climate emergency.

Why do we need wilder national parks?

  • Nature is badly depleted in our national parks. In England’s national parks, three-quarters of Sites of Special Scientific Interest are in a poor condition and often in a worse state than elsewhere.(1)
  • There’s less woodland cover in the Yorkshire Dales than London, less in the Peak District than Leeds, and less in the Lake District than Sheffield.(2)
  • The UK is currently placed in the lowest 12% of global countries and territories for biodiversity intactness.(3)
  • 56% of our species are in decline and 15% threatened with extinction.(4)
  • All this would be far worse without our national parks. But we’re being outpaced by the nature and climate crises.
Sea eagle by Credit Silvano Paiola Wild Screen
Missing species such as white-tailed eagles, beavers and pine martens should be reintroduced when habitat is available and in consultation with local people, to help ecosystems to recover (C) Silvano Paiola / Wildscreen

Wilder national parks can help us.…

  • Store carbon and protect us from flooding

  • Improve water quality

  • Save declining British species

  • Boost local economies

  • Reconnect with nature-rich, wild places

  • Lead the way to a wilder Britain by inspiring rewilding and nature recovery nationwide

Support this campaign

Keep up to date with our progress on Wilder National Parks, including ways that you can help us, by subscribing to the Rewilding Britain newsletter.

So what can we do?

We need wilder national parks that can lead the way for a healthier, more nature-rich Britain, with opportunities for communities and local economies – and the UK Government and devolved administrations can and should take action.

The Prime Minister’s pledge to protect 30% of the UK’s land and sea for nature by 2030 is not credible without ensuring wilder national parks.

First established 70 years ago, national parks comprise some of the most remote swathes of Britain and some of our most cherished landscapes. Yet whilst national parks have largely protected these landscapes from built development, they’re not delivering for nature and biodiversity and could be much wilder. 

By mapping national park land ownership, we’ve found that public bodies and water firms own almost 300,000 hectares or 13% of the total 2.3m hectares covered by Britain’s 15 national parks. This means the Government can create core rewilding areas across 10% of the parks regardless of action by private landowners.

Watch the transformation of an ecologically degraded upland valley in Britain into a flourishing nature-rich landscape in this visionary animation.

We’re calling on the UK Government and devolved administrations to:

  • Create core rewilding areas on public land across 10% of the national parks. 

  • Ensure another 50% of the parks become nature recovery areas – with a mix of habitats, wildlife corridors and land uses, and Government financial support for nature-friendly agriculture.

  • Modernise legislation to empower the parks to upscale their efforts for nature’s recovery.

What we’ve achieved so far

Since we began the Wilder National Parks campaign in 2021

  • 51,750 of you have told us loud and clear that you want wilder national parks, by signing our petition. 

  • We met directly with Defra and presented our petition, where our Director Alastair Driver emphasised in a meeting with Defra’s Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Lord Benyon just how vital wilder national parks are.

  • We’ve been taking your message to the Government by responding to public consultations on the landscape review, the Nature Recovery Green Paper and new long-term environmental targets, so that the Government turns into concrete action its acknowledgement that it must modernise legislation to empower national parks to rewild.

  • We’ve proved that there’s overwhelming support for the cause, commissioning polling from YouGov which shows that 83% of the public support Britain’s national parks being made wilder.

  • Our team has been shaping the future of national parks around Britain by submitting responses to National Park Authority consultations.

    We’re encouraged that many National Park Authorities are already starting to make their own suggestions for what wilder national parks could look like, including Exmoor and the Lake District. And members of the Rewilding Network such as Wild Ennerdale, Wild Hawswater, Ingleborough NNR and Wild Peak are leading the way by creating a mosaic of core rewilding and regenerative areas within our national parks.

But we’re not done yet! Sign up to our newsletter for updates on how you can help us further the campaign. 

Support this campaign

Keep up to date with our progress on Wilder National Parks, including ways that you can help us, by subscribing to the Rewilding Britain newsletter.

References

1. Figures from Natural England
2. Friends of the Earth data
3. 2021 report from RSPB and the Natural History Museum
4. State of Nature report 2019

More on our campaign