Globally and nationally natural systems face collapse and wildlife numbers continue to plummet. Across the UK alone, 56% of species are in decline, 165 are critically endangered and some, that were once so synonymous with the British countryside, have all but disappeared: hedgehog numbers have halved since the turn of the century and 96% of Turtle doves have been lost in the last 20 years.
Despite decades of work by dedicated and skilled environmental conservation organisations across the globe, our natural systems continue to decline. Traditional intensive human-led conservation management (which has focused on preserving a narrow selection of protected sites and key species) is no longer enough to arrest the devastating loss of nature.
But all is not lost.
Wilding offers a fresh, non-invasive approach that can revitalise and transform ecosystems. Focusing on the stewardship, rather than management, of the natural world, it effectively puts nature ‘back in the driving seat’. By moving away from and limiting human intervention, the natural world is given the space and time to recover, and the introduction of missing keystone species, such as large grazing animals, drives the return of natural processes that promote thriving ecosystems and bio-abundance. The key to this is people, resolving any perceived or real conflicts between wildlife and nature and ensuring that they trust nature to work for them.
Wilding represents a massive step change for conservation organisations. It requires new ways of thinking and changing entrenched ways of working. For this reason, Restore Our Planet are keen to help establish a Stewardship of Nature through Wilding Facilitation Fund, critically, to engage the public in these programmes, to help people understand the natural world and the natural processes that can seem so distant to us in our modern lives; to reconnect people with wild nature.
Restore Our Planet have an existing relationship with Kent Wildlife Trust (KWT) and Wildwood Trust (WT). KWT is one of the Wildlife Trusts pioneering these new approaches in the UK, recognising that Kent offers the perfect starting point from which to drive forward Wilding and public engagement with it: if it can work here (which we know it can!) it can work anywhere.
Restore Our Planet will work with KWT and WT as our key delivery partners, providing access to the wider network of individual Wildlife Trusts across the UK. Wildwood Trust have access to other native animals and to other NGOs, local landowners and communities approaching this work.
We will include programmes returning missing species, such as pine marten, beaver and chough and the localised reinforcement of threatened species, such as turtle dove and a range of butterfly species. Collectively we will establish the community of practice to develop a framework for engagement and build capacity for other organisations to kickstart their own wilding projects across the country.