The story of rewilding is not just about restoring landscapes; it's a chronicle of evolving human consciousness and our relationship with the natural world. While the term itself is relatively recent, the seeds of this philosophy were sown much earlier. Let's embark on a journey through time, exploring the key milestones that shaped the rewilding movement we know today.

Early Influences: A Legacy of Conservation Thought

The 19th and early 20th centuries witnessed the rise of prominent conservation figures like John Muir and Aldo Leopold. Their writings and activism focused on preserving pristine wilderness areas and fostering a deeper appreciation for the natural world. While not explicitly using the term "rewilding," their ideas laid the groundwork for the movement that would emerge later.

The 1970s: Wilderness Recovery and the Birth of Rewilding Ideas

The 1970s marked a turning point. Conservation biologists like Michael Soulé and Reed Noss began to question the effectiveness of simply protecting isolated pockets of land. They advocated for a more holistic approach, one that focused on restoring entire ecosystems and the natural processes that sustained them. This concept, initially called "wilderness recovery," is considered the intellectual foundation of modern rewilding.

The 1980s: Coining the Term and Defining the Core Principles

The term "rewilding" first appeared in print in the late 1980s, popularised by members of the grassroots environmental organisation Earth First! This marked a crucial shift. "Rewilding" aimed beyond preservation, emphasising the active restoration of wildness and ecological functioning. Soulé and Noss further refined the concept with their influential "cores, corridors, and carnivores'' framework. This emphasised the importance of large, protected core areas, habitat corridors for wildlife movement, and the reintroduction of keystone predators like wolves, all vital for restoring ecological balance.

The 1990s: Defining Success Stories and Confronting Challenges

The 1990s witnessed the first significant rewilding projects gaining momentum. The reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park is a landmark case study. Predators helped control elk populations, leading to the regeneration of vegetation and a healthier ecosystem. This success story demonstrated the potential of rewilding to achieve a positive cascade effect. However, the decade also highlighted challenges. Social acceptance wasn't always guaranteed. Concerns from local communities about potential conflicts with wildlife or economic impacts required careful consideration and community engagement.

The 21st Century: Expanding Horizons and Evolving Approaches

The 21st century has seen the rewilding movement rapidly evolve. The focus has expanded beyond national parks and large reserves. Urban rewilding has emerged, transforming cityscapes with green roofs, native plant gardens, and efforts to reconnect fragmented urban ecosystems. And small-scale rewilding, pioneered by LettsSafari, is becoming the fastest growing section as the general public become more aware of climate change and want to get involved.

Furthermore, technological advancements like drone surveys and ecological modelling have become valuable tools for planning and monitoring rewilding projects. 

Global Recognition and Looking Ahead

From Europe to South America, Africa, and Asia, the movement is gaining traction, fostering international collaboration and knowledge sharing. The future of rewilding lies in addressing climate change and its impact on ecosystems. Rewilding projects can play a crucial role in increasing ecosystem resilience and mitigating the effects of a warming planet.

A Movement Full of Promise

The history of rewilding is a testament to our evolving understanding of our relationship with nature. From early conservation ideals to the active restoration philosophy it embodies today, rewilding offers a powerful solution for a planet in need of healing. As the movement continues to mature and gather support, the future holds immense promise for restoring ecosystems, fostering thriving biodiversity, and securing a healthy planet for generations to come.Be part of the rewilding revolution! Support LettsSafari and see the impact of your actions. Our subscribers receive weekly updates on the rewilding projects they support, wider rewilding articles as well hints and tips to use at home. All for just £35 per year. Subscribe TODAY!