This feels like a massive step for Rewilding Britain - it’s the first time we’ve asked people to show political support for rewilding in the UK, and the response has been astounding!
More than 100,000 members of the public have supported the idea of rewilding in an online petition by campaign group Rewilding Britain.
Rewilding means the large-scale restoration of ecosystems where nature can take care of itself as natural processes are reinstated, for example, tackling flooding through moorland restoration and reintroduction of beavers.
The NGO launched the petition on 17 April, expecting to get 10,000 signatures in the first month, and then “see how far we could get over the six-month life-span of parliamentary petitions,” it said.
However, in one day, 10,000 people had already signed it. Within two months, the 100,000 signature target was met, meaning that the proposals have to be debated in Parliament.
“Our demand for nature to be restored at scale isn’t based on a vague idea. There are specific steps our government can take, to rise to the double climate and biodiversity emergencies with natural climate solutions and rewilding,” the organisation said.
Ecosystems such as woodland, peat bog, wetlands and marine areas can draw carbon out of the atmosphere, according to a report by the campaigners. For example, for every hectare, wetlands can absorb an average equivalent of around 5.1 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, it said.
“This feels like a massive step for Rewilding Britain - it’s the first time we’ve asked people to show political support for rewilding in the UK, and the response has been astounding!” the organisation said.
The petition was signed by people across the UK, with rural areas often showing the most support, it noted (see map below).
In response, the environment department (Defra) pointed to its 25-year environment plan, which commits the government to improving the condition of protected sites and to creating or restoring 500,000 hectares of wildlife-rich habitat in England. The plan will become statutory through the environment bill, currently in draft form.
“The bill will include ambitious legislative measures to take direct action to address the biggest environmental priorities of our age, many of which are linked directly to climate change: air quality, nature recovery, waste and resource efficiency, and water resource management,” it said.
It is also working on plans to restore peatland, plant 11 million trees by 2022, and pay land managers for actions that benefit the environment, it said.
Catherine Early is a freelance environmental journalist and chief reporter for the Ecologist. She can be found tweeting at @Cat_Early76.