Swinley Forest, a large Crown Estate woodland in Surrey and Berkshire. Photograph: Mike Copeland/Getty Images Swinley Forest, a large Crown Estate woodland in Surrey and Berkshire. Photograph: Mike Copeland/Getty Images

‘Protect us, guide us, rewild us’: Royal family urged to restore their lands

More than 100 scientists, experts and public figures have signed a letter to the Queen, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge, urging them to rewild their lands.

Taken together, the royal estates — the Crown Estate, the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall, and lands owned privately by the Sovereign — are larger than those of any other single landowner in the UK. 

The signatories argue that the Royal Family, “as figures of moral stewardship and as ambassadors for our nation, is perfectly positioned to now lead the charge in the great task of our age: planetary repair”.

They point out that only 10% of England’s forests remain – the lowest figure of any country in Europe.

“How can we consistently condemn the destruction of nature in Brazil, New Guinea or Indonesia, and urge them to keep their remaining forests intact?

“We despair when we see palm oil plantations and beef ranches in what was once pristine tropical forest, yet romanticise the bio-bereft mono-cultures of our own deforested grouse moors and sheep-grazed uplands,” the signatories argue.

Recent analysis by Friends of the Earth has demonstrated that significant proportions of the Royal estates are perfect for rewilding and restoration, the signatories point out.  

Even after excluding Grades 1-3 high-quality agricultural land, Priority Habitats and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), the royal estates contain thousands of hectares of Grade 4 and 5 land ideally suited to being relinquished to self-willed wilderness, or managed for low intervention habitat restoration. Their research also suggests that these major benefits could be brought about without significant impact on food productivity.

Organised by the rewilding campaign group Wild Card, the letter’s 120 signatories include the broadcaster Chris Packham, the former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams and the ex-chief scientific advisor to DEFRA and professor in biology at the University of St Andrews, Sir Ian Boyd.

“We ask you to seize this moment to restore and rewild the royal estates, bringing the hope of renewal and regrowth to the people of this country. Protect us, guide us, rewild us,” they said.

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