More than three quarters of Scots support rewilding in Scotland, according to research conducted for the Scottish Rewilding Alliance.
The findings come as the Alliance, a coalition of over 20 organisations, launches a campaign calling on the Scottish Government to declare Scotland the world’s first Rewilding Nation.
It features an animation narrated by wildlife presenter and filmmaker Gordon Buchanan showing how rewilding can help make Scotland a place where nature recovers, wildlife flourishes and people prosper.
The Alliance want to see a commitment to rewilding 30% of the country’s land and sea within a decade, ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) to be held in Glasgow in November.
A new opinion poll shows that 76% of Scots support rewilding – the large-scale restoration of nature to the point it’s allowed to take care of itself – with just 7% opposed.
Steve Micklewright, Convenor of the Scottish Rewilding Alliance and Chief Executive of Trees for Life, said: “The world faces overlapping nature, climate and health crises, but Scotland has the opportunity to show bold leadership by becoming the world’s first Rewilding Nation.
“We have the space, political influence and public backing to become a world leader in saving nature and ourselves.”
With habitats and species being eradicated rapidly worldwide, the United Nations has declared 2021-2030 the Decade of Ecosystem Restoration.
And the Scottish Government has committed itself to bold action to tackle the crisis facing biodiversity through its Edinburgh Declaration.
But the Alliance say that Scotland is lagging behind other countries, with nature in steep decline and its landscapes among the world’s most nature-depleted.
Only 1.5% of Scotland’s land is national nature reserves and just 4% native woodland, while 25% is severely nature depleted and does not support the nature-rich forests, peatlands and river systems it should. Rural landscapes now support fewer people than previously.
Declining or at risk species include red squirrels, wild cats, capercaillie and great yellow bumblebees. Recovery or return of species such as beavers, cranes, sea eagles and pine martens happen slowly, while elk and lynx are among the species already made extinct.
Rebecca Wrigley, Chief Executive of Rewilding Britain, said: “It’s past time to reboot our relationship with the natural world, and Scotland can lead the way. By working with nature instead of against it, rewilding can restore life to hills, glens, rivers and seas – while tackling climate breakdown and offering fresh opportunities for farming and local economies.”
The Alliance says rewilding at least 30% of Scotland’s land and sea by 2030 can be achieved by restoring and expanding woodlands, moorlands, peatlands, rivers and marine habitats, and without loss of productive agricultural land.
Hugh Raven, Chair of Open Seas, said: “The new opinion poll shows people know that nature’s health is our nation’s wealth. Incentivising lower impact fisheries around our coastline would help degraded habitats and fish populations recover, and regenerate our harbours and coastal towns. Recovery in places like Lamlash Bay shows what can be achieved by communities, but we urgently need to rewild larger areas of our seas.”
Tom Bowser, farm owner and Ranger with Argaty Red Kites, added: “Declaring ourselves a Rewilding Nation would be a powerful statement of intent that we’re serious about tackling the climate and nature crises, reconnecting people with nature, and regenerating our communities.”
The Alliance recommends using rewilding as a natural solution for increased absorption of atmospheric carbon, building rewilding into post-Covid green recovery plans, and establishing a native species recovery policy and a nationwide network connecting nature restoration projects.
“We’re being seriously outpaced by climate breakdown and biodiversity loss, so trying to save nature piecemeal isn’t enough. Scotland has the opportunity to restore the web of life that supports our health and wellbeing, while acting as a rewilding inspiration globally,” said Peter Cairns, Director of SCOTLAND: The Big Picture.
For more details and to view the Scottish Rewilding Alliance’s new animation, Rhythms of Life, following its launch on the evening of 17 February see www.rewild.scot.
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