The director of Rewilding Britain, Alistair Driver, has made a plea to the natural flood management sector to work more closely together with his organisation on projects in England and Wales' national parks that bring benefits to both biodiversity and flood risk management.
Speaking at last week's CIWEM conference on NFM, Driver said, "My plea is for us to talk more, to get together. If you look at a map of where the government is going to spend its £15m on NFM projects adn compare that with a map showing wildness in our national parks, you'll see that most of our natural parks are not very wild at all, they are very manicured. There is great scope to make them wilder. And if you look at the Lake District, the Peak District or Dartmoor on the government's map of NFM projects, you'll see there are a lot of opportunity to align the gov's NFM intentions and opportunities while making those areas wilder."
Furthermore, Driver said, "There are very significant linkages between the way we need to operate promoting rewilding initiatives and the way the EA and its partners will need to operate in terms of promoting NFM."
Defining ‘rewilding’ as "largescale restoration of ecosystems towards the point that nature is allowed to take care of itself" Driver said Rewilding Britain’s vision is to see at least 1m ha supporting natural ecological processes over the next 100 years.
Meanwhile, Driver said the organisation is through to the second stage of a £4m bid with the Arcadia fund to rewild a large area of west Wales. The next 10 years should see the organisation "capitalising three or four pilot projects in Britain, the area in Wales and several in England where I’m talking to chief executives of natural parks and various others."
One high profile area of overlap between the two approaches is the introduction of keystone species. While emphasising that rewilding "in England and Wales is certainly not about wolves and bears", Driver pointed to the fact that the EA’s new NFM evidence base contains a case study on the reintroduction of beavers to the River Otter in Devon (Ecology Briefing 16 Feb 2016). "Beavers are here to stay," said Driver. "The beaver trial is going well, but what we need is a proper strategy for control and management of beavers and a proper approach to making sure that landowners and communities welcome them and are not seriously impacted by them when they’re doing the wrong things in the wrong place. But the key message is beavers are definitely more good than harm for the natural environment."
Driver also suggested rewilding should involve not only green corridors and the urban environment, but take in the full catchment approach, from source to sea: "We’re not just working in the rural environment. Some of our initiatives will embrace the urban environment - green corridors coming down into the towns and cities and indeed all the way to the sea and encompassing the coast and the marine environment."
Other projects for Driver involve looking at a replacement for the common agricultural policy post-Brexit: "I’m involved at a reasonably high level in government now on discussions behind the scenes on the potential for a payment for ecosystems services approach to replace CAP. At the moment I’m confident it will happen, but you never know - there’s lots of good talk at the moment but we need to see it on the ground."
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