Thousands of acres could be ‘rewilded’ under new nature network
- Credit: Wild Ken Hill
More than 300,000 acres of land could be “rewilded” in the next three years under a new project to tackle the nature and climate crisis, said campaigners.
Campaign group Rewilding Britain is launching a network later this year to support and connect landowners, farmers, community groups and local authorities who are rewilding land or considering doing so.
Rewilding involves the large-scale restoration of natural habitats and systems to help wildlife thrive, and can include bringing back missing species such as beavers to naturally manage the landscape.
In the next three years, the network initially aims to catalyse the rewilding of at least 300,000 acres of land – an area the size of the North York Moors National Park.
This approach to land management has already taken root in East Anglia, with major projects liaising with Rewilding Britain include the Wild Ken Hill estate in west Norfolk, which is rewilding 1,000 acres of marginal land, including bringing in beavers to an enclosed area, alongside 2,000 acres of nature-friendly agriculture and 500 acres of freshwater marsh.
And the WildEast movement, launched last month, set an ambitious 50-year goal to restore 250,000 hectares (618,000 acres) of land to nature across the whole region by inspiring landowners, farmers, businesses, community groups and individuals to pledge 20pc of their landscape to wildlife. WildEast, which is also endorsed by Rewilding Britain, is encouraging people to share existing nature projects of all sizes on social media to inspire others to contribute to the overall ambitions – with efforts in back gardens, churchyards and community nature reserves complementing larger-scale rewilding initiatives, such as the one at Fritton Lake on the Somerleyton Estate.
Rewilding Britain said bold action is needed to reverse a nature crisis in which 56pc of studied British species have declined and 15pc are at risk of extinction.
It is hoped the new network will provide resources, help collaboration and give advice on how to rewild in ways that boost livelihoods, for example by enabling landowners to diversify into ecotourism.
Chief executive Rebecca Wrigley said: “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.
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“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.”
READ MORE: Wild ambition to turn East Anglia into one of the world’s greatest nature reservesThe group is already receiving large numbers of requests for guidance from across the country, it said, including more than 50 landowners and partnerships with almost 200,000 acres between them in the last year alone.
Rewilding habitats including native forests, rivers, peatlands, moorlands and saltmarshes, and boosting wildlife-friendly farming, can be achieved without losing productive farmland, the organisation argues.
A £25,000 crowdfunding appeal has been set up for the start-up costs of the network, which will be launched later this year.