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Britain adopts rewilding initiative to protect native wildlife

By Issac Ang

Feb. 16, 2022

In an age where pesticide-ridden cornfields are a common sight, the U.K. government urges the public to work toward re-establishing landscapes of wild grasses rustling in the breeze. Dana Lim Art


On Jan. 6, the British government unrolled the Agricultural Transition Plan, a massive volunteer-based initiative aimed to restore wildlife in agricultural fields—a process called rewilding—and fully switch the country to sustainable farming by 2024.

However, the initiative received criticism from small farmers who worry that it could put their financial stability and national food security at risk.


The rewilding initiative comes amid a national environmental crisis—according to State of Nature, the U.K. ranks 189th out of 218 countries on biodiversity. Fifty-six percent of the country’s species declined in population from 1970 to 2013, and 15% are currently extinct or endangered. Of all the environmental polluters in the nation, agriculture had the greatest impact by deteriorating soil health, eroding natural habitats and reducing keystone plant populations. In response, the new initiative aims to bring 60% of agricultural land under sustainable management by 2030 and restore 300,000 hectares (about 700,000 acres) of wildlife habitat by 2042.


“By encouraging farmers to preserve the environment, the rewilding initiative is a timely solution to the U.K.’s severe losses of biodiversity. Moreover, the plan’s focus on preserving soil fertility will benefit both wildlife and food production,” Junior Rachit Verma said.


To encourage the implementation of environmentally friendly practices, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs proposed three plans projected to cost the equivalent of $912 million in total. The Local Nature Recovery scheme subsidizes farmers for making small-scale improvements to their farming practices while creating space for nature through actions such as planting trees or restoring peat. The Landscape Recovery scheme focuses on larger-scale environmental changes, including establishing nature reserves, restoring floodplains and cultivating woodlands. Finally, the Sustainable Farming Incentive pays farmers to transition to sustainable farming methods while maintaining food production rates.


Before Brexit, the U.K. was subject to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which subsidized farmers based on their food production rates. However, under the policy, larger producers were rewarded while smaller-scale farmers struggled, exacerbating land inequity. Furthermore, the CAP encourages farmers to undertake unsustainable farming practices to boost their overall crop outputs. In contrast, the Agricultural Transition Plan rewards farmers for paying heed to the environment.

Despite its progressive intentions, the proposal has recieved significant opposition, especially from small growers.

The Daily Mail reports that by converting productive farmland into natural habitats, rewilding could cause food shortages. With 1% of U.K. landowners owning more than 50% of the land, wealthy farmers are poised to benefit more from the rewilding plan, which would subsequently fail to solve the inequality of the former CAP. Furthermore, some believe that the government, lacking agricultural experience, should not regulate farming.


“Opposition to the rewilding initiative is unwarranted—small farmers can fund food production using the subsidies they recieve for taking care of the environment,” Junior Abhishek Kaushikkar said.


Although it is controversial, the U.K.’s rewilding initiative is a milestone for environmentalists around the world. As a teamwork-based approach to restoring environmental health, the initiative could help create a nature paradise in Britain, where animals roam free and plants grow unhindered.

 

About the Contributors

Issac Ang

Staff Writer


Isaac Ang is a junior at Leland High School and staff writer for the Charger Account. During his free time, he enjoys reading, playing ping pong, and experiencing nature. He is an avid rock climber. His academic interests include math, science, and coding.









Dana Lim

Artist


Dana Lim is currently a freshman at Leland High School and is serving as an artist for The Charger Account. Some of her interests are listening to music, watching thriller shows/movies and of course sleeping.

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