Hosted by Rewilding Europe and the Rewilding Apennines team, the Network’s face to face gathering welcomed 36 rewilding practitioners from 12 countries to the rewilding area. The five-day event proved to be an inspiring platform for exchanging knowledge and ideas to accelerate the upscaling of rewilding principles and best practices across Europe.
Formed in 2013, the European Rewilding Network (ERN) is a pan-European community set up to amplify the rewilding movement through the sharing of practical experiences on rewilding sites at various stages of development. Each member’s work can be enhanced through this exchange of insights and know-how, and the network has now grown into a diverse range of 75 initiatives spanning 27 countries.
And each rewilding initiative brings with it a unique landscape and its own set of challenges and opportunities – from which much learning can take place to move each one up the rewilding scale. “It has been very useful to learn about different approaches at larger and smaller scales. A vibrant, dynamic and supportive community,” says James Haughey from Green Sod Ireland.
The gathering provided a great opportunity for lively and thought-provoking discussions, with particular attention given to methods used and how human intervention can be withdrawn over time enabling natural processes to fully unfold. The event focused on five themes: connecting rewilding science and practice, rewilding landscapes, wildlife comeback and coexistence, communicating rewilding as the 21st century environmental narrative, and economic opportunities emerging from rewilding. These themes were explored through case studies, presentations, brainstorming sessions, and outdoor activities in the beautiful Central Apennines – the wild heart of Italy.
An inspiring backdrop
The rugged setting of Pettorano sul Gizio was the perfect environment to stimulate rewilding thinking – home to the Marsican brown bear, grey wolves, Apennine chamois and golden eagles. Set within one of Rewilding Europe’s nine Rewilding Areas, it is a vast outdoor classroom for rewilding in action, with the ongoing establishment of coexistence corridors and a burgeoning wildlife-watching economy. Members of the Rewilding Europe and Rewilding Apennines teams were delighted to see so many of the participants leaving re-energised, full of fresh perspectives to take back and implement into their own rewilding areas.
A stronger community
As the ERN develops further, the largely virtual network is transforming into an even more cohesive and interactive physical community of rewilding practitioners, for the greater benefit of ecological processes, wildlife and people across Europe. With greater engagement comes greater progress, and so the plan is to have many more online events and physical gatherings in the future, as the ERN’s Coordinator Mei Abraham Elderadzi explains.
“Although the world is shifting to a virtual environment, meaningful and long-lasting connections can only be built by connecting face to face, and the ERN event has demonstrated this clearly. The main lesson learned is that to really drive the rewilding movement further, it is necessary for rewilding practitioners to come together, establish fruitful connections and help each other overcome obstacles.”