Rewilding Wales?

(Title Image: Natural Resources Wales/Crown Copyright)

This week’s short debate was lead by Joyce Watson AM (Lab, Mid & West Wales) on the subject of “re-wilding”.

A controversial subject

Joyce Watson accepted that rewilding was a controversial subject and only seems to grab headlines when the re-introduction of wild carnivores like wolves is raised – though the re-introduction of beavers is being investigated for Carmarthenshire.

She raised Tuesday’s statement on the future of farm support and the principle of it being tied to the public good – but what is “public good”? Managed re-wilding which can store carbon emissions in light of the climate emergency is a clear example of it.

“Rewilding Britain’s plan is to put carbon sequestration front and centre as a model of payments that values carbon sequestration in different restored ecosystems to develop long-term mitigation of climate change. In other words, that translates as managed rewilding, and not neglecting swathes of our countryside.”
– Joyce Watson AM

John Griffiths AM (Lab, Newport East) said good management was essential to ensure biodiversity was maintained and rewilding should be seen as part of conservation management – some of which (birds, for example) may require grazing to continue rather than be cut back.

Llyr Gruffydd AM (Plaid, North Wales) warned that rural communities are yet to be persuaded that re-wilding isn’t going to be forced on them without their involvement – as perceptions are of the Summit to Sea project.

A pivotal moment

Environment, Energy & Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths (Lab, Wrexham), was a bit cautious despite saying that biodiversity and climate change were at a pivotal moment. Rewilding has clearly divided opinion with many believing that wild species were being re-introduced at random and productive land was being abandoned – she couldn’t support putting animals in that situation.

“If we were to allow the Welsh countryside to develop through natural succession, it is likely this would turn large areas of Wales into woodland, and on the face of it, this could seem like an attractive idea – helping us to reach our woodland planting and climate change targets. However, many of our most threatened and priority habitats in Wales are not woodland, and rely on management through grazing, for example, to hold them in a more open condition, to allow their characteristic plant and animal species to thrive.”
– Environment, Energy & Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths

An additional £11million has been announced towards nature recovery, creating 30 new meadows and restoring a further 22 other sites. Farmers deserve praise and the Minister said she was inspired by the level of commitment many have shown towards protecting biodiversity; they deserve to be rewarded for carrying out such work, whilst not neglecting their food production role.

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