Rewilding ramps up in Britain

Special Interest

22 May 2020

For International Biological Diversity day, we wanted to share some good news—beavers are back in the wild in Britain! They’re back in Scotland and Devon, and landowners are applying for licences to release them in other parts of the country. Rewilding Britain, a UK-based organisation that works to encourage a balance between people and nature, feels it can take some credit for the reintroduction of the beavers, as it is on the advisory group for the beaver release trial on the River Otter in Devon.


These amazing aquatic engineers change the landscape constantly – building dams that slow the flow of water (reducing flooding downstream) and creating ponds and wetlands that are rich wildlife havens.

Beavers are symbolic of a wilder Britain, but rewilding is much more than that. In the past, conservation has focused on saving isolated fragments of nature, as nature reserves or places of scientific interest. It was vital work, but unfortunately it has not been enough to stop the decline in biodiversity. The latest State of Nature report shows that 41 per cent of UK species have declined in abundance since 1970, 15 per cent of species are threatened with extinction, and 2 per cent are already extinct.[1]


Working hand in hand with traditional nature conservation, Rewilding Britain is looking to reverse this catastrophic loss and allow nature to flourish across larger areas across the UK. Rewilding takes a holistic approach and looks at the health of the wider landscape. Rewilding practices mean that less management is needed, making it more affordable and sustainable than other conservation methods. It recognises the power of nature to heal itself and work in its own way as it has for millennia. Giving nature the space it needs, where it needs it, will reward us with a healthier earth and a more sustainable future.


Policy plays an important role in this. Rewilding Britain works to influence government policy so that rewilding becomes a key part of future land use. In a report it published last year[2], it demonstrated how nature-based solutions can tackle the climate emergency and the extinction crisis. Rewilding Britain followed it with a petition to the UK parliament to restore nature on a massive scale to help stop climate breakdown. It got the required 100,000 signatures in less than two months, triggering a parliamentary debate in October.

Rewilding Britain is also working with people on the ground – landowners, community groups, companies and other individuals – to help make rewilding happen. It provides key support to two large rewilding projects in Scotland, which have been initiated by local people wanting to improve the place they live in on a large scale.


Rewilding Britain supports farmers and landowners who want to rewild across large areas from Cumbria and Northumberland to Devon and Cornwall. The organisation receives hundreds of enquiries from individuals and organisations across the country, as well as many offers of support.


Oak is excited to be supporting Rewilding Britain and to see how things are starting to change rapidly. We share its hope that the land can repair itself, absorbing more carbon, enriching soils, expanding wildlife, and giving us all a chance to adapt to our changing climate before it’s too late. Find out more about its work in restoring living systems here.


Rewilding Britain falls under our Special Interest Programme. These grants reflect the Trustees’ interests in making dynamic, diverse, large, innovative and challenging grants. They cover a wide range of fields, including health, humanitarian relief, education and the arts. If you would like to learn more about the Special Interest Programme’s strategy click here.


[1] State of Nature 2019: UK’s wildlife loss continues unabated, https://www. nationaltrust.org.uk/features/state-of-nature-2019-uks-wildlife-loss-continues-unabated (Accessed 04-02-2020)

[2] New Report: How restoring nature can help decarbonise the UK, 21.05.2020, https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/blog/new-report-how-restoring-nature-can-help-decarbonise-the-uk (Accessed 04-02-2020)

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