The move follows a spat between DEFRA and The Telegraph over the weekend in which the environment department publicly criticised the newspaper for “incorrectly” stating that it was planning to launch a rewilding task force to investigate bringing back keystone species. DEFRA later retracted its criticism.
In a statement yesterday, DEFRA did not define the difference between the functions of a rewilding task force and a forum investigating bringing back lost species, but said that “wilding or re-wilding is the restoration of ecosystems to the point where they are more regulated by natural processes” and that “as part of the 25-Year Environment Plan the government will provide opportunities for the reintroduction of formerly native species, as part of our approach to rewilding, where there are clear environment and socio-economic benefits”.
“Although not appropriate in all situations, this is something the government is already supporting through projects such as peatland restoration funding or agri-environment schemes,” the statement said.
It added that the government is “further exploring this concept as we develop plans for our schemes that reward environmental benefits: the Sustainable Farming Incentive, Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery”, which will “factor in re-wilding approaches that offer potential to effectively deliver biodiversity”.
Responding to the row, rewilding farmer Derek Gow said he hoped the new group, which had been planned for a while, would move beyond “modelling and pointless research” to producing “active plans for recovery”. However, Gow said he suspects “cosy inertia” to be the “most likely outcome by far”.
A DEFRA spokesperson said: “We continue to support the creation and enhancement of wilder landscapes as part of our broader approach to nature recovery including, where appropriate, species reintroductions.”