Rewilding projects

  • The Opwall teams are working with various different rewilding projects in the UK (Knepp Estate in West Sussex, Middleton North in Northumbria and Bamff in Perth). These projects include running student training courses in skills needed to develop a career in wildlife conservation or climate change , developing a biodiversity credit standard that can be used to provide the funding to plug the funding gap at the start of rewilding schemes and also working with potential sponsors of rewilding schemes.

    One additional project involves working with DEFRA on developing a scheme whereby small-scale farmers can work together on developing re-wilding schemes. The UK govt has a target of 30% of land in a semi-natural state by 2030. The concept being that marginal farmland will be moved to prioritizing nature conservation and distributed in a series of corridors linking expanded protected areas. This is to combat the impact that CAP funded farming has had on UK wildlife over the last few decades. The Biological Intactness Index (comparison between habitats and large species present pre 1700 and now) shows the UK to be the 29th worst performing country in the World and the most impacted of all western nations. Rewilding areas of the UK will help reverse this trend but to date the opportunity to rewild has been limited to large-scale landowners.

    There is an increasing interest in rewilding projects from existing small-scale farmers wanting to work together to get involved in regreening the UK, but they face s a barrier to entry with no easy off the shelf method for making these collaborative arrangements work. The objective of getting large areas of unproductive farmland managed for wildlife is not likely to be realized unless a new combination of relatively small-scale landowners and investors can be brought together into management companies that are aimed at rewilding.

    For rewilding to be most effective large areas (landscape level) are needed in order to have viable numbers of large herbivores at really low stocking densities to shape the habitat. In South Africa where large-scale reserves are needed in order to maintain viable populations of predators, it is common practice for large protected areas to be formed from multiple land holdings but with each of the owners having tightly defined traversing rights across the whole area. These areas are then managed by a single management company with payments made to each of the landowners.

    The concept is to examine whether this same approach could be used to help with landscape level management of wildlife in the UK, by modelling the financial returns that could be made were a Rewilding Company to be formed that would lease areas of land from private landowners. The outer edge of this landscape scale area would be fenced to ensure the levels of herbivore grazing were controlled at a level that targeted the development of a mixed grassland, scrub and forest mix. Income for the Rewilding Company which would be owned by the participating landowners and investors would come from safari style tours, glamping, wild meat sales, farm shop sales, sales of biodiversity credits and carbon credits, plus component 3 landscape level ELM payments.

    For advice on potential income streams from training courses, biodiversity or carbon credits please contact eleanor.field@opwall.com

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