‘I want Rewilding Britain to be an environmental movement,’ says Helen Meech, Rewilding Britain’s first director. ‘What is exciting about rewilding is how it offers a positive vision for the future. At a time when we are consistently hearing reports of species and habitats in decline, rewilding offers a message of hope.’
Rewilding Britain is built on the idea that the UK has lost many of its species – including its keystone species such as wolves and lynx, wild boar, beavers and grey whales – rendering ecosystems incomplete. Many experts see rewilding as the reintroduction of ‘keystone’ species to wilderness areas. These keystones, such as beavers, tend to have a largely positive effect on ecosystems and biodiversity disproportionate to their size.
Meech says the purpose of the charity is to work as a platform for people to voice their interests and concerns, discuss different types of rewilding, consider where it could take place, and finally, organise action. ‘It is fair to say that rewilding Britain only exists because people wanted it to. However, the idea is not to rewild everywhere, we want to work with communities and rewild where its wanted. Right now, we are really keen to hear what people think, their thoughts and their fears. The thought has to come from the people – the power has to come from the bottom up.’
Much of the rewilding debate rests in theory. While many British experts and academics are busy defining its different forms, less has been done in practice. Meech says Rewilding Britain should activate some of these theories, as well work as a national think tank. ‘Rewilding Britain plays the role of both thought leader and champion for the rewilding agenda. We would like to bring other environmental organisations together to help scale up and amplify what they are already doing to create a collective impact on the ground.’
With a background working at the National Trust, Meech says she would like to communicate with other environmental charities to achieve aspects of rewilding. ‘The National Trust, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the Wildlife Trusts and the Woodland Trust are all committed to landscape-scale conservation, so Rewilding Britain is beginning conversations with them about how rewilding could be part of that.’
‘If you look at some of the rewilding projects out there, it’s astounding what can be achieved in just a short space of time.’