Wilding is a relatively novel approach to managing land for nature and people, and as such may generate a number of legitimate concerns. We address some of these below, whilst recognising that we won’t be able to cover everything on this page. We invite you to reach out with any further comments, questions or concerns you might have.
Concern: Wilding leads to an ugly landscape
Response: For some, wilded spaces can seem untidy or even unattractive. They are indeed quite different from the more manicured ‘natural’ spaces we’re used to, but what is lost in having dead and rotting things hanging around is more than gained by having spectacular wildflowers, birds and butterflies. This kind of beauty, to us at least, is far deeper and more rewarding than some of the more sterile landscapes (like lawns) that we commonly value. Of course, only you can ultimately decide what is most important to you, and how to manage your land accordingly.
Concern: Wilding is just a passing phase, or fad, in land management. We shouldn’t invest in it as there will be new solutions to these problems soon
Response: Wilding is the culmination of a slow realisation that the land can manage itself better than we can manage it. The stage we are at now, with wilding at the forefront of the conversation surrounding land management, has been decades in the making and the positive results it is producing up and down the country suggest that there is little chance it will disappear soon.
Concern: Our UK ecology can’t recover. Even if it does, there are more ecologically important places we could be focusing our efforts.
Response: There are in fact several examples of recovering natural areas in the UK. Nature has a remarkable capacity to regenerate if only we allow it. It has taken the Carrifran Wildwood just 20 years to reach the wooded upland state we find it in today, and Knepp even less to show impressive recovery. Both sites now show few signs of their previous degradation.
The second part of the criticism is more damning. It is true that Britain’s ecology lacks the diversity found in many other parts of the world, but to refrain from wilding here ignores several elements of the debate worthy of consideration:
1. The U.K is ecologically valuable
One response is a rejection of the idea that the UK isn’t valuable ecologically. Though it might not quite compare to some ecological hotspots, the UK has globally important populations of seabirds, over 100 species or subspecies of plants and animals that can only be found here, and also 160 out of 210 of chalk streams found on earth.
2. Influence outside the UK
The creation of the first national parks in the U.S in the 19th century, the first overland wildlife crossings implemented in France in the 1950s and Bangladesh becoming the first country to ban plastic bags in 2002 are all significant moments in conservation history that serve to demonstrate that conservation efforts don’t just aid the ecology of the region you’re working in, but can have a ripple effect that spreads across the world. Successful rewilding in the UK won’t end at our shores, but will serve as an example of its potential that other countries can draw on for inspiration and motivation.
3. Wilding has importance outside of ecology
Flood management, carbon storage, soil protection, air quality, generation of revenue streams, allowing for natural spaces close to populations for the well-being of people. These are some of the reasons why wilding should be pursued in the UK, even if we were to accept the UK as ecologically unimportant.
Concern: Wilding will release dangerous animals into my community. I don’t want boar or wolves threatening me or my children
Response: This is a very fair concern in instances where animal release is a goal of wilding projects. However, this is not how we propose to manage any of our projects in the foreseeable future, and so no added threats will be introduced to the community.
Concern: Wilding is nature restoring itself, and so it doesn’t require human intervention.
Response: This form of ‘passive’ wilding is viable on some sites, and there are examples of successful passive wilding in the UK and Europe, particularly on abandoned farmland. However, as mentioned earlier, small sites and sites with a long history of human land use and/or degree of distance from other wild areas are generally in need of a helping hand to kickstart natural processes. Over time, the amount of management required will reduce significantly, as natural processes take over.