“What is rewilding anyway?” This is a question we’ve been asked quite a bit.
George Monbiot, Guardian columnist, keen proponent of rewilding and author of several books including Feral, defines rewilding as “resisting the urge to control nature and allowing it to find its own way” (Monbiot, 2013). He explains that ecosystems are not just collections of species, they are also the ever-changing relationships between those species. Therefore rewilding is not about the careful preservation of a particular ecosystem at a particular time, nor an attempt to bring back an earlier version of an ecosystem. It is about letting nature find its own way. This way will not be the same way of nature in past centuries or even decades. The conditions have changed and nature must find a new way to survive and thrive in these new conditions.
Europe has a well-established and successful rewilding program. It began in 2011 in the Netherlands and now includes eight large rewilding areas across Europe. This program has reintroduced several large herbivores and carnivores. In North America, species have been reintroduced in national parks like Banff (bison) and Yellowstone (wolves). These rewilding efforts have had impressive results, but our ambitions are a bit more modest.
We know our limits and so we humbly intend to take the passive approach as much as possible. If removing invasive, non-native plants is warranted, then we will. If removing artificial barriers to nature (like drainage ditches or fences) is necessary, then we will. Otherwise, we will let nature take its course. Our goal is to add to the space currently available to nature. We hope this will provide much-needed relief to plants, insects and other animals that are finding it increasingly difficult to co-exist with the dominant species on the planet.
There is another definition of rewilding and that has to do with rewilding people. Creating more wild spaces where wildlife is free to flourish also means creating more spaces for people to enjoy nature and to see the awe-inspiring beauty it offers. We want to welcome nature back, but we also want to welcome people to live beside nature again. There are great health benefits to be gained from living close to nature. We are rewilding so that both people and nature can benefit from a healthy environment and a harmonious relationship.
Another question we are asked is “Where will you rewild?”. That remains to be determined. The land must be for sale. There cannot be any buildings on the land. The land can be degraded, but not contaminated. Beyond that, we cannot say until we are ready to make the first purchase. Stay tuned and support our efforts if you can.