The term “rewilding” has become a controversial topic over the past few years. The National Farmers Union is worried it will destroy the very fabric of the countryside. While many conservationists argue it needs to be done in order to restore Britain’s lost wildlife. But what is it and what will it do to the countryside?
Since the end of the last ice age, people have managed the land in a variety of different ways. Most of Britain’s wildlife has long forgotten about “the wild” and therefore it’s pointless trying to recreate an ecosystem that never really existed. Also, most people in the countryside don’t like the idea of wolves and bears running around in their back gardens.
On the other hand, supporters of “rewilding” would argue it isn’t about getting rid of people, it’s about restoring natural processes. In fact, many people in Europe have made a living out of eco-tourism, which has been greatly helped by the rewilding movement. Species will only be reintroduced if there is suitable habitat and they won’t have a significant negative impact on people and their livelihoods.
The NFU sees “rewilding” as something that will destroy traditional farming practices, the only issues are that many of our “traditional” farming practices have been developed or modified recently to increase the amount of food farmers can produce. Perhaps an example of this is sheep farming in the Scottish Highlands. Sheep have grazed the highlands for some time, however, there are more sheep on the highlands than ever before and this is having a negative impact on the even older Caledonian Pine Forest.
In England, Knepp farm is one of the biggest and best established “rewilding” projects. Owner of Knepp, Charlie Burrell, has reintroduced large grazing animals, pigs and beavers into a large fenced enclosure. Already these animals have had an enormous positive effect on biodiversity and Knepp is now home to Purple emperor butterflies, Turtle doves, Peregrine falcons, four species of owl, Nightingales and a huge variety of insect life.
In my opinion, “rewilding” is a new kind of conservation with a potential to reverse the recent wildlife losses. However, it must not occur on the best land for agriculture; not only is this land very valuable, but it also provides the nation with food. If you want to learn more about “rewilding” look at the links below.