What is Rewilding?

Returning nature to nature.

Rewilding is a conservation method allowing nature to own its roots with minimum human intervention. 

Rewilding Yellowstone National Park

DEFINING REWILDING

What is Rewilding?

Rewilding is the act of mass restoration of living systems. It’s allowing selected areas to gradually develop through natural processes rather than curating and cultivating its every move.

THE REASON BEHIND REWILDING

Why should we rewild nature? 

Promoting biodiversity is more than just the quantity and variety of species in a given ecosystem; it’s about interactions between these species and how they create a functional, sustainable environment. 

THE THREE C’S OF REWILDING

THE “HOW” TO REWILDING

THREE PRIMARY AREAS OF A SUCCESSFUL REWILDING PROGRAM

Based on Michael Soulé and Reed Noss 1998 paper, “Rewilding and Biodiversity: Complementary Goals for Continental Conservation.”

There are three primary areas required for a successful rewilding initiative.

1. Cores,

2. Corridors, and

3. Carnivores

Cores | kôr |

noun
A large protected wildlife reserve meant for animal foraging, seasonal movements, and other needs.

Corridors | cor·ri·dor | ˈkôrədər,ˈkôrəˌdôr |

noun
A protected passageway between two separate land areas (cores) allowing for natural migration and other animal movements. 

Carnivore| car·ni·vore | ˈkärnəˌvôr |

noun
An organism that eats mostly meat or the flesh of an animal. Carnivores are often referred to as predators or keystone species. 

SUCCESSFUL REWILDING IMPLEMENTATIONS

THE REWILDING OF YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK

CORE |  YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK

CORRIDORS | YELLOWSTONE TO YUKON NATIONAL PARK

CARNIVORES | WOLVES

Settlers Migrate West

As settlers came west, they depleted bison, deer, elk, and moose populations – the wolves’ natural prey – causing wolves to turn towards the settlers toward livestock.

This behavior led to the government initiating a bounty program during the 19th century, remaining through 1965 for the extermination of wolves. 

March 1, 1872
March 1, 1872

National Park Protection Act

President Ulysses A Grant signs the National Park Protection Act into law, creating the first park: Yellowstone National Park.

However, conservation efforts at Yellowstone continue to remove wolves from the park as a justification for protecting the “more desirable” populations of deer and elk.

Mid 20th Century
Mid 20th Century

Overgrazed Lands

Deer and Elk overgraze willows and vegetation, causing vegetation to deplete, leaving bare unprotected sections of soil. Wildlife dependent on vegetation is eliminated. Soil erosion grows, and dust storms increase.

1973
1973

Endangered Species Act of 1973

1991
1991

Funding for Re-Introduction of Wolves

Under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the Fish and Wildlife Services were required to recover endangered animals. Preparations to bring back the gray wolf began in 1975, and two decades later, funding was allocated for this initiative. However, the reintroduction of the gray wolf was still controversial.

1995
1995

Return of the Wolves

A total of 14 wolves in 1995 and 17 wolves in
1996 were captured in Canada and transported to Yellowstone.

Wolves naturally bred during both years, with two litters born in 1995 and four in 1996.

While the wolves primarily preyed on
elk, with a pack killing every 2 – 3 days, had the occasional sheep (~12 sheep during the first two years but no cattle).

Following the reintroduction of wolves, their population continued to increase until 2003 and after that, the elk population decreased.

Trophic Cascading Results

Wolves kill elk, which helps reduce their numbers. Elk change their feeding behaviors and graze in a safer area, limiting overgrazing.  These changes allow for plant maturity. Soil erosion decreases. Birds return to the vegetation. Beavers return and build their dams. Water slows down. Fish populations grow.

WHAT SERVICES DOES AN ECOSYSTEM PROVIDE? 

HOW DOES REWILDING AFFECT COMMUNITIES? 

Economic Sustainability

The World Bank estimates that the collapse of select ecosystem services could result in a decline in global GDP of $2.7 trillion annually by 2030

Wild Pollination

There is no doubt that pollinators are vital to wild and agricultural systems. But with the recent decline of insect pollinators, a third of our crops are at stake.

Preventing Floods & Erosion

Conservation is a way of allowing nature to reduce flood risk and erosion by slowing runoffs and storing water.

Water Quality

Water quality through conservation allows sediments to settle, resulting in the filtering process of nutrients and impurities from runoff filtering. This then allows for natural vegetation to use organic waste.

Reducing Wildfires

Natural behaviors by semi-wild herbivores consume plant matter, otherwise used as fuel in wildfires, creating open spaces that act as fire breaks.

Creating Nature-Based Economies

Ecotourism Initiatives

Wilderness Immersion: Safaris, sightseeing, and hiking adventures.

Nature Classrooms: Foraging for food, bird watching tours, beekeeping, and mountaineering training.

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