Born to rewild?

Nature reserves – the beating heart of a landscape

In these landscapes nature reserves would continue to be the beating heart, but they would be more numerous and larger, carefully managed as ark sites which are literally overflowing with wildlife which colonises surrounding countryside. Land neighbouring the reserves will be rested and allowed to recover, soils and water will recharge their health, and wildlife will recolonise. Crucially farming will be very much part of the picture here, but its land will be shared sensitively with nature.

These neighbouring areas, the ones which surround nature reserves, aren’t places where big agri-businesses control swathes of land and produce monocultures of grass cut for silage four or five times a year. Instead flower rich pastures, wetlands, scrub and woodland will be given space to regenerate. Herds of native cattle will ensure these landscapes remain open, diverse, and constantly changing – the same results that roving herds of aurochs would have had in times gone by. In addition these landscapes will be producing other high quality products which are the planet’s life support systems – clean air, fresh water, and productive and healthy soils.

There will be space for us to take a harvest of key products such as timber and also high quality meat from livestock. The big difference would be that natural processes will be in charge, not hemmed in on our terms or confined to reserves. Species such as pine marten, corncrake and curlew will recolonise these landscapes and perhaps as time moves on proposals to reintroduce once native carnivores will not evoke such visceral and negative reactions. 

A wilder future

This article I hope prompts us to think about a wilder future. It doesn’t prescribe or identify areas where such wilding could occur – these are decisions custodians of the land will make. As we progress through a tumultuous period in land use policy change as a result of Brexit, landowners and farmers will consider changes to their land management and Devon Wildlife Trust will be at the fore of supporting a wilder Devon. This article I hope stimulates discussions and feeds into debates
about wilding in rural and urban, land and sea, and, crucially, within our own minds but in a way which is constructive and not polarising. 

Peter Burgess is Devon Wildlife Trust’s Director of Conservation and Development


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