What even is ‘wilding’?
Wilding and rewilding can be quite slippery terms, seemingly signifying anything from the release of top predators and large herbivores to encouraging more pollinators in your garden. In this post and later posts in the series we aim to demystify some of the discussions around (re)wilding and outline our own approach. For us, wilding is foremost about charting a more positive, inclusive and experimental path forwards for conservation in the UK. Wilding is concerned with promoting natural processes and ecological functions for the benefit of biodiversity and society, more so than preserving a specific habitat in a stable, persistent state and striving to maintain particular species compositions. This means working with nature in a more dynamic, open-ended way, rather than dictating what a particular space and its wildlife ‘should’ look like. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we, or other wilders, are advocating an ‘anything goes’ approach… Here we’ve outlined a few things that exemplify for us what wilding is, and isn’t. These points are so key to what we do that you’ll also find them on our website under the ‘Why wild?’ tab.
You might notice some differences between our vision for wilding and those of other organisations. For us these differences are to be expected and welcomed, and we’re wide open to any thoughts from our readers about what you think wilding is or isn’t. Let’s shape the future of wild spaces in the UK together!
A process-led approach committed to restoring ecological function, with benefits to people and wildlife. Wilding is as much about soil restoration, flood mitigation, water and air purification, carbon sequestration and pollination as it is about more space for nature.
Cost-effective. A process-led approach aiming for self-sustaining ecosystems allows managers to step back over time and let nature do more of the work.
A positive, inclusive environmentalism that recognises and addresses the ecological crisis without dwelling in the past.
Participatory, and about more than individual projects. It is about investing more people in a wilder future, resisting indifference and disenfranchisement in decisions about nature and the countryside through practical involvement and inclusive debates about the future of conservation.
About all of the scales at which nature works, from hedgerows, roadside verges and gardens to large landscape-scale projects. All efforts to make spaces wilder by restorating natural processes should be encouraged and included.
Wilding is not:
Just one thing. There are a number of possible approaches that could be considered wilding. Landscape-scale projects and the introduction of large herbivores and predators, the most contentious approaches, are only part of a much bigger picture.
Contained to far-away reserves. It must also happen everywhere in between, within reach of everyone.
Anti-agriculture, or about undermining rural cultures and economies. Wilding must be part of a mosaic of varied, connected land uses, and provide new opportunities to communities. The UK is overwhelmingly farmland; we need to make space for nature within this productive landscape and create more space just for nature.
The reserve of conservation scientists. Wilding is supported by rigorous science, but everyone is encouraged to learn about, contribute to, and participate in it.
About clear goals and defined end points. Wilding is dynamic and open-ended, with invigorated natural processes and eventual passive management as overarching aims.
Becoming part of a growing ‘wilding’ movement
For us, and for a large and growing ‘wilding’ movement, it seems clear that our conservation practices and institutions need to change a great deal to turn the tables on the climate and nature crisis we face. Our vision is optimistic. We aren’t trying to just protect ‘what’s left’, or to fence nature away from society. Our approach revolves around a conviction that we need many more wild places, and many more people invested in their creation, care and enjoyment than we have now.