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Wild landscape during autumn.

An entirely different ecosystem has emerged from ending the intensive industrial farming and dairy practices at the Knepp Estate. Without any farming at all, it now produces 75 live-weight tons of organic, wild- pasture fed, free-roaming meat every year. Rewilding has resulted in huge gains in terms of soil restoration, carbon sequestration, water storage and water purification, flood mitigation, air purification, and habitat for rare species and other wildlife, including pollinating insects— a space for nature, contributing to human health and enjoyment.

Credit: Klein and Hubert via Nature Picture Library

Rewilding

Call to action:

Create wildness in large and small landscapes so that natural processes, wildlife, and human communities can thrive together.

Rewilding restores missing or removed elements of nature, such as native plant and animal species, so that humans and nonhumans can create wild landscapes together. Rewilding can happen at a wide range of scales, from microrewilding projects in urban settings to nation-spanning campaigns such as the Yellowstone to Yukon Initiative. Rewilding focuses on natural processes, from microbes in soil to the role of apex predators. It builds connections between people and place. It supports local communities and nature-based economies, such as pastoralism, farming, and fishing, while aiming to restore wildness, including dam-free rivers, wildlife corridors, forest gardens, and urban forests. It creates opportunities for food webs to be restored and biodiversity losses to be reversed. Although rooted in ecology, the goal of rewilding is not to reach any human-defined point or state. Instead, it embraces natural complexity, resilience, and autonomy.

Action Items

Individuals

Learn about benefits of rewilding. Nearly 40 percent of the world’s land is degraded and 70 percent of wildlife populations have declined in recent decades. Rewilding aims to reverse these trends by restoring ecosystems to a natural state. Rewilding projects are occurring in seventy countries at a variety of scales. The concept of rewilding emerged in North America in the 1980s, with roots in conservation biology. Originally, it focused on establishing and protecting interconnected natural areas with the goal of giving keystone species, such as wolves, room to roam. However, this approach runs the risk of excluding local people, agricultural and forestry use, and Indigenous rights. Since then, the concept and practice of rewilding has expanded to be more inclusive, with an emphasis on traditional knowledge, reconnecting and rooting people to their landscapes. Benefits include:

Rewild your home. Gardens and lawns can serve as wild spaces. There are many ways to rewild a lawn, but one of the easiest is by removing sod or adding compost and letting native plants grow.

Participate in rewilding activities locally. Many local organizations offer volunteer opportunities or community-led rewilding projects, such as this one in Australia that reclaimed a golf course where fish, turtles, and spoonbills now thrive. Here are some ways to get involved (see Organizations below for more):

Advocate for Rewilding. Consider writing an op-ed, participating in advocacy, attending public forums, or financially supporting rewilding initiatives.

  • These success stories of dam removal conclude with resources on how to get involved and what organizations to connect with.
  • Identify abandoned lands that offer an opportunity for rewilding in your area and advocate for their rewilding. Aminata Calhoun of Philadelphia (U.S.) highlights how public concern for the safety of an abandoned lot turned it into a “community oasis” with greenery and gardens.
  • Write an op-ed for your local newspaper about the benefits of rewilding. This opinion piece demonstrates how Seattle could benefit from rewilding.
  • Join a rewilding organization that advances rewilding projects and ideas. Rewilding Global has a list of organizations that individuals can join.
  • Sign local petitions on rewilding. This petition to the UK government received over a hundred thousand signatures. Re:wild has petitions and action letters globally to promote rewilding activities, save existing areas, or support local communities.

Attend training courses and immersive experiences on rewilding. Investing in environmental education or training can help you be informed about rewilding practices.

Groups

Farmers and Other Landowners

Rewild your land to support biodiversity, increase profitability, and support connectivity between habitat patches. Agricultural rewilding can be implemented for landowners who wish to support a multifunctional system of livestock and natural landscapes. A well-known example is the Knepp Rewilding Estate, England’s first major rewilding project, which began as an unprofitable farm and now supports wildlife, grazing animals, and thriving soil communities.

Urban/City Planners

Promote development activities with rewilding in mind. Urban and city planners can ensure developments incorporate the principles of rewilding by preserving natural processes, such as waterways; creating urban natural areas; and planning for urban wildlife connectivity. The idea of urban rewilding is increasingly recognized.

Companies

Integrate rewilding efforts into your business plans. Companies can contribute to rewilding by setting aside funds for rewilding projects and by partnering with organizations to help finance, scale, or provide in-kind resources.

Governance

Promote and fund initiatives that support rewilding. Global initiatives exist that support and promote rewilding efforts, including the recent signing of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) by 190 countries. Continued large-scale efforts will require the mobilization of funding.

Implement policies and legislative reforms that support rewilding. This could be through payment, such as in the form of tax credits, for services to rewild land.

Protect Indigenous rights in rewilding initiatives. Indigenous land rights and knowledge can be integrated into government actions to rewild land through meaningful engagement in project design, participatory workshops, and giving ownership back to Indigenous peoples.

  • The Peruvian government has designated a 2.7-million-acre Yavarí Tapiche Indigenous Reserve in the Amazonian forest, protecting both the voluntary isolation and culture of the Indigenous peoples and one of the most biodiverse and vulnerable regions.
  • Integrating Indigenous management and knowledge can increase the potential for success in environmental initiatives, as was the case for rewilding the Linnunsuo wetland, which invited traditional villagers to teach the local nonprofit about its wetland ecosystem and how to best care for it, inspiring projects across Finland and Scandinavia to do the same.
  • The Tamaraw Conservation Program (TCP), under the Philippine government, was undergoing the creation of a thirty-year plan to rewild the sites of the tamaraws (dwarf cattles). They hosted a workshop with the Mindoro’s Indigenous people to discuss the tamaraw recovery, their ancestral domain, and legal land rights, and they developed a new joint management plan.
  • In Australia, nearly 88,000 hectares of land and water extraction rights were transferred to the Nari Nari Tribal Council to own and manage. It is known as one of the largest land-for-conservation deals and has promoted species recovery of birds, kangaroos, emus, and snakes.

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