Conservation & Society, 18(2): Rewilding 'Feral Political Ecologies', pp 89-102

Rewilding has been hailed as ‘radical’ and ‘agenda-setting’ in the challenge it poses to mainstream conservation. This paper questions whether that is still the case, or if rewilding is now being mainstreamed and with what consequences? Our analysis focuses upon developments in Britain, up until 2018, discussing what changes have become manifest and the barriers and restraints that have been observed. As such, we evaluate the extent to which rewilding – in practice – departs from longstanding conservation sensibilities. Discussion is structured around three key questions— Who is now involved in rewilding across Britain? What they are seeking to do, in terms of how nature is conceptualised and managed (or not)? In what ways do their objectives involve people and human-centred aspirations? Our findings reveal three key differences from current conservation approaches. First, rewilding is associated with a proliferation of new actors, new mechanisms of finance and new spaces of conservation interest. Second, rewilding as an approach exhibits clear novelty in its stated aim to be nature-led and, despite challenges, attempts to work through ongoing negotiation and experimentation. Finally, rewilding is currently being advocated and pursued as an agenda for people and nature, which moves beyond earlier nature conservation paradigms of protecting nature from human influence. However, it remains to be seen whether rewilding advocates can realise their ambitions to popularise and create peopled wild spaces across Britain’s landscapes.