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Rewilding – where might it fit in British conservation policy and practice Keith Kirby

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1 Rewilding – where might it fit in British conservation policy and practice Keith Kirby

2 How do we do conservation in Britain? Nature conservation often ‘gardening’ – Cultural landscapes – Inevitable with small sites – Hostile socio-political environment – Specific habitat/species Driven by target-focused conservation approach Many strengths to this

3 But wouldn’t it be nice to let the wild things out of the cage…rewilding Total freedom not possible, But the acceptable limits can be stretched Science-base must be sound

4 Can re-wilding deliver biodiversity objectives? What is our template if we move outside the cultural landscapes that we have inherited? What are we trying to conserve?

5 We cannot go back through rewilding “Natural” past is not tenable as a model Conditions uncertain Climate and soils have changed Species gained and lost Human influence being pushed back in time Can we go forward? Develop towards future natural regime? Withdraw obvious driving human influences Give up targets Focus on allowing ‘natural’ processes

6 Re-wilding proposals Landscape scale, mosaics of habitats Natural(-istic) processes such as grazing Possible drivers Land abandonment under CAP reform Forestry renaissance Spiritual/moral reasons

7 British examples? Knepp Estate In 2001 we shifted our focus entirely and embarked on a series of regeneration and restoration projects aimed primarily at nature conservation and a less intensive way of meat production Wild Ennerdale The Wild Ennerdale Partnership is allowing the landscape to evolve naturally with reducing human intervention Great Fen a 50-year project to create a huge wetland area; a haven for fen wildlife, a massive green space for people, opening new opportunities for recreation, education and business Alladale The purpose of the Alladale Wilderness Reserve is to restore a remote area of the Highlands to its former natural glory.

8 Conservation issues? Are we prepared to allow change? Re-wilding is unpredictable Wood may go to heath, but heath may go to woodland quicker! Re-wilding may mean losses of abundance of species, even extinctions Keep some targets…?

9 Regulation issues Welfare legislation exists Feral animals are not wild Deer within fenced areas may fall into the category of ‘kept’ animals. Re-introductions difficult (cf beaver!) Unless unofficial – wild boar But don’t mention carnivores Disease issues Legal constraints

10 Public support issues Lose treasured landscapes Historic environment altered Much likely land has public access – Footpaths – Right to roam Domestic stock kill people – Extra problems of dogs – Stallions and horse riders Jurassic Park planning – Dealing with escapes Be prepared to compromise

11 Ways forward Need large areas Likely to be staged process – Bring stakeholders on board Public Regulators Conservationists – Opportunity to stop at each stage Likely to be more very extensive farming than fully wild Not re-creation of past, but new wilder cultural landscape

12 Rewilding – direction of travel, not outcome

13 Conclusions Potentially exciting and new approach to conservation – Dynamic approach to conservation – Compatible with climate change adaptation – Scope for using some National Nature Reserves Needs informed thinking/research – Potential losses as well as gains Needs integration of landscape/access issues Complementary to ‘traditional’ approach, not a substitute Its happening on the continent by default!

14 Thank you

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