A new environmental charity aiming to bring back species such as wolves, bison, lynx and even humpback whales to Britain has been launched.
Rewilding Britain, inspired by the success of campaigner George Monbiot’s book “Feral: Rewilding the Land, Sea and Human Life” hopes to establish at least three core areas of “rewilded” land by 2030, covering 100,000 hectares or more each.
It wants at least one of these rewilded areas to connect both land and sea from mountaintops to coastal water.
The charity has been founded with the support of key organisations such as the Forestry Commission, John Muir Trust, Friends of the Earth and the Cairngorms National Park.
It argues that almost all land in Britain is managed and that even in conservation areas natural processes are “arrested”.
While acknowledging the work of projects such as the Carrifran Wildwood in Dumfries and Galloway, Wild Ennerdale in Cumbria and Trees for Life, it says their efforts are generally disjointed, isolated and on a fairly small scale.
Nature reserves do a disservice to ScotlandStuart Brooks, John Muir Trust
The project also aims to stimulate eco-tourism which is already worth £1.4 billion to the Scottish economy.
Mr Monbiot said Britain needed to catch up with the rest of Europe in reintroducing rare species.
“The changes we’re calling for would be considered unexceptional almost anywhere else in Europe, where in many countries populations of beavers, boar, lynx and wolves are already recovering rapidly.
“So far, the public appetite for change here has had few outlets. We want to change that, and to restore the living world and our relationship with it.”
Stuart Brooks, chief executive of the Pitlochry-based John Muir Trust, said the vast scale of the Scottish Highlands could offer an ideal location for one of the core areas.
“Nature reserves with fences around them where you go in and ‘see nature’ do a disservice to Scotland. We have the land to establish something on a much bigger scale.
“This is not a threat to landowners. It is not beyond reason three or four landowners could get together and establish an area across some of their sporting estates. The same could be said for local authorities and NGOs.”
Mr Brooks said the introduction of a species such as wolves would take time.
“The trust is supportive of reintroducing species but there are lots of issues to consider first including the impact on other land users. You can’t introduce a species knowing it doesn’t have wide public support.
“The term ‘rewilding’ is new but the idea is embedded in much of what we do.
“We’re on a journey here and Rewilding Britain is the next step in a process which has seen the reintroduction of species such as the beaver and white-tailed sea eagle.”