Wilderness Policy

Rewilding and society


The link between rewilding and society is very complex. It can be viewed negatively, e.g. conflicts with livelihoods, human wildlife conflicts, economic pressures or cultural disruption. It can be viewed also positively, where rewilding offers numerous benefits e.g. restoring nature to revitalizing ecosystems, fostering biodiversity, and enhancing people’s connection to nature. That can result in ecological, recreational, and cultural benefits for communities and the environment.

The usual methods to protect biodiverzity, often don’t succeed in turning around or stopping this decline. New ways of restoring ecosystems such as rewilding could bring interesting results. Rewilding brings back the natural dynamic, instead of keeping places the same with only a certain group of plants and animals.

Diversity of approaches

As more abandonment land is left alone, there are new chances to fix, bring back, and let nature on that land thrive again. We can bring back plants and animals, make places wilder, and fix what’s been damaged. But here’s the question: What do these ideas really mean when the world is changing so fast.

It’s getting clearer that the old method of looking at how things used to be in nature and calling that success isn’t going to work anymore. Instead, we need to think about what might happen in the uncertain future. There are different ways to do this, and they give us various opportunities and knowledge.

So, when we talk about ecological restoration, we often mean making a place like it was before humans changed it. Reintroduction is about putting animals or plants back where they used to live. Rewilding is about letting a managed area become wild again. But rewilding, this “hands-off” way of doing things is challenging because the environment is changing so fast and we can learnt a lot.

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Rewilding is a way how people are trying to reduce human pressure on nature

Complexity of rewilding

Rewilding is a way how people are trying to reduce human pressure on nature. It’s about letting nature become more dynamic again. In rewilding very often, the end goal is that nature will take back control.

Rewilding often face criticism. Some folks say it’s not very clear what rewilding really means. They don’t understand, that in this approach it can’t be always predict what will happen. They see a threat that in this approach is excluding humans from landscapes.

Challenges

The hard part of rewilding is that people are not always willing to give up control over what happens in rewilded areas. This is a issue, especially for groups that work to protect different kinds of animals and plants.

Sometimes, during the slow process of rewilding, some species might temporary disappear, and that caused problems because it’s not okay to lose species in some specific situations.

Dynamic of rewilding

The term ‘rewilding’ was first used just few decades ago. It was in time when dicussion was about a way to bring back overhunted animals like predators or missing big herbivors. The goal was restore nature dynamism from the top-down. Researchers and managers believed that by bringing back overhunted animals like wolves, nature processes would consequently fix itself without needing more help. But, the lesson was learnt that natural processes does not work always so simple.

Today, there are different ways to rewilding, and they are used in different situations. One way is called ‘trophic rewilding.’ This means reintroduction of big plant-eating or meat-eating animals back where they were, but extinct. Another way is ‘passive rewilding.’ This is a more relaxed approach where land is left to natural dynamic, with no-extractive use, with hunting bans, and might even take down things like fences and dams to help rivers flow freely again.

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Making rewilding plans is complex process, but well done rewilding schemes can provide significant social benefits to people

Making rewilding plans

Currently majority of ecosystems are impacted and linked to the benefit of human society. It is believed that when we come up with ideas to rewild nature, we need to think about how it will help both – people and nature. 

Well done rewilding schemes can provide significant social benefits to people. They provide green spaces improving human wellbeing, health, self-fulfilment and promoting human interaction. Important element of this is that rewilded nature and the creatures that live there, inspire us and help us to form a cultural identity. 

Rewilding schemes can also provide significant economic benefits. Good examples are various forms of recreational activities, reversing climate change and air pollution. The rewilded land also acts as a breeding ground for game animals and fish stocks, helping to replenish areas where hunting and fishing are allowed.

Rewilding is long term process

It is important to understand that the rewilding is a long term process. Unproperly design rewilding schemes can also have negative impacts on humans. Examples are crop damage or livestock killed by predators. This kind of impacts can lead to the loss of traditional farming landscapes and that is a growing concern among many cultures.

Rewilding is an important concept in various human cultures, reflecting the intrinsic connection between people and the restoration of nature for ecological and spiritual reasons.

Marek Gejdos
Volunteer in European Wilderness Society

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