Be part of the solution

Nature is our life support system: the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the energy that sustains us. All plant and animal species play a role and as they disappear – more than half of all species in the UK are in decline and 15% is threatened with extinction – our life support system starts to fail.

Rewilding the UK countryside and the seas around us provides an opportunity to step back from this brink and let nature take care of itself for a healthier, more resilient natural world.

The benefits from a rewilded landscape can be felt by us as well as by nature: richer landscapes can provide economic benefits for rural communities through things like wildlife-based tourism; greater woodland coverage stabilise soils and prevent flooding; thriving ecosystems help us fight climate change; connecting with nature is good for our mental health and wellbeing; and not least, it’s good for the animals that are reintroduced around the UK.

Britain has all the landscape and sea shores that it needs for an epic return of its wildlife. Only six percent of our island is built upon and large areas of our countryside are not productively farmed. We have all the land we need, without affecting essential food production, if we reform the way we use our uplands – allowing blanket forestry plantations and sheep-grazed landscapes to rewild – and reform shooting and hunting estates for the benefits of wildlife.

One of the most ambitious community projects of a generation has been the purchase of over 10,000 acres of land by the local community in Langholm in the south of Scotland. They completed their second round of fundraising in August 2022, doubling the size of the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve they created. Now this land is in community ownership, the team is working on projects to restore and rewild the landscape on a huge scale.

In another approach, the Penpont Project blends rewilding with sustainable food production, in a collaborative effort between farmers, NGOs, land managers and local communities. Most inspiring of all, it’s youth-led and the largest project of its kind in the world, taking place on a 2000-acre upland estate in Wales.

In addition to setting aside these big blocks of land and reintroducing keystone species, there are also benefits to rewilding lots of little areas too. This is where small-scale rewilding plays a vital role, making space for nature by creating patchworks of different habitats and wildlife corridors. Heal Rewilding is doing exactly this, one square at a time.

Councils, among the largest landowners in the country, are also rewilding public land in growing numbers with one in five county councils setting aside former golf courses, post-industrial scrubland and recovering waterways for nature.

Marine rewilding is the same idea applied to coasts and seas. In some cases, it means ceasing harmful fishing methods, dredging and extraction activities, which all disturb the seabed, damaging wildlife and releasing huge quantities of stored carbon. When we allow our damaged marine ecosystem to recover and thrive again, it can fulfil its vital role of storing this so-called ‘blue carbon’. As well as passive storage of carbon in sea sediment, mudflats and sands, our saltmarshes and seagrass habitats can actively sequester (fix and store) vast quantities of blue carbon, at many times the rate of mature tropical forests.

Rewilding seabeds, saltmarshes and seagrass meadows makes sense because they all deliver important ecosystem services such as enhanced biodiversity, increased stocks of commercially-fished species and protection for coastal communities. Both saltmarshes and seagrass beds, like those being developed in the Seagrass Ocean Rescue project, offer highly effective defences against coastal erosion and the increasingly severe storm surges experienced around the UK in recent years due to climate breakdown.

Are you wild about reclaiming our land and our sea coasts for nature, with all its potential benefits? There are many inventive ways for you to do so, depending on your ambition and those around you.

Rewilding land and sea is part of The People’s Plan for Nature – a plan for the future of nature created for the people, by the people of the UK. Have a listen to Bigger Than All Of Us, on the Carbon Copy Podcast, to hear their stories and how nature can bring us together.