The Rewilding Institute's Vision and Work
The Rewilding Institute emphasizes the restoration of highly interactive species (keystone and foundation species) throughout their suitable range in ecologically effective populations as proposed by Michael Soulè and his colleagues in recent papers.
Dave Foreman, Founder
Preamble: The Rewilding Institute begins with the assumptions that most of the world ought to be wild, that extinction is the overarching crisis of our time, and that we modern humans have an ethical obligation to protect and restore wild Nature. Rewilding leaders maintain that it is not enough to preserve remaining pieces of wild Earth, but is also necessary to restore big wild connected areas -- complete with top predators, like wolves and great cats and sharks, who keep ecosystems bountiful and beautiful.
Mission: Based on these understandings, The Rewilding Institute (TRI) mission is to explore and share tactics and strategies to advance continental-scale conservation and restoration in North America and beyond. We focus on the need for large carnivores and protected wildways for their movement; and we offer a bold, scientifically credible, practically achievable, and hopeful vision for the future of wild Nature and human civilization on planet Earth.
Goals: As we said a quarter century ago in Wild Earth magazine, we live for the day when Gray Wolves and Grizzly Bears have connected habitat from Mexico to Alaska, when Pumas have reclaimed their homelands East and West, when salmon and other diadromous fish swim freely up and down our continents’ rivers, when the oceans are teeming with whales and sharks, and when all native species regain natural patterns of abundance and distribution. More specifically, and recognizing their far-reaching benefits, we aim to restore keystone species – like wolves, big cats, beavers, prairie dogs, salmon, eels, whales, hemlocks, and chestnuts -- across their natural ranges. We aim to protect all public wildlands for their highest and best uses: as wildlife habitat, ecosystem providers, and quiet recreation grounds. We work concurrently to expand wilderness and park systems, encourage wildlands philanthropy, and reward conservation of private lands. We endorse the “Half Earth” proposal of protecting at least half of Earth’s total area of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in ecological reserves, and treating all of it more fairly and compassionately. We’ve drafted and are refining Continental Wildway visions that would take us much of the way there. All these gains for the wild world, of course, depend upon human restraint; and so we also promote solutions to the over-population and climate crises.
Tactics: For the coming years, The Rewilding Institute’s biggest project is to grow our website, rewilding.org, into an online publication in the spirit and tradition of Wild Earth, expanded into Rewilding Earth. This multi-media platform will be akin to a campfire where friends gather to share stories about wild places and creatures and how to defend them.
Rewilding Earth will serve the many grassroots conservation groups advocating for wild places and creatures, and will be organized thematically along the steps that must be taken to restore and protect Nature across North America and beyond. Our work draws heavily from the books of our founder, Dave Foreman, especially from Rewilding North America; and from the wildways scouting (especially Treks East and West) of our editor John Davis (involving scores of wildlands groups). As their works clarified, critical rewilding steps include addressing the human overpopulation crisis; reforming wildlife and land management agencies; restoring apex carnivores and other keystone species; expanding and linking Wilderness Areas, National Parks, and other protected areas; making our infrastructure permeable to wildlife movement, particularly by installing safe wildlife crossings on major roads; providing financial incentives for conservation of wildlife and natural ecosystems on private lands; putting a price on carbon; teaching natural history; and promoting wildlands philanthropy.
Rewilding Earth will profile the big ideas and grand visions, including Nature Needs Half and Continental Wildways, while catalyzing actions for specific wild places. Rewilding Earth will complement the many good publications centered on environmental news, conservation biology, or ecocentric philosophy, but will be more oriented toward rewilding work on the ground and the wilderness and wildlife groups doing that work.
To serve wild Nature, The Rewilding Institute strives to strengthen the grassroots conservation community. We do so in several basic ways: education and outreach, support for frontline groups, and conservation science.
Rewilding education and outreach will happen largely through Rewilding Earth and associated communications. Available through Rewilding Earth and basic smartphone apps will be a podcast series, Wildways and their Champions, featuring wildland advocates and explorers in the field talking about why and how to save particular places and creatures. Rewilding Ambassadors and Players are forming a roving band of speakers and agitators, available to give public talks, lead protests, train volunteers, and otherwise inspire actions for wild Nature. Rewilding Earth will also provide links to other good pubs and videos and will sell books important for rewilding work.
Support for frontline groups will happen through our Lines in the Sand section of Rewilding Earth and through our help with direct actions for wild places.
Our directors and staff have many decades of experience in defending wildlands, through tactics ranging from writing elected representatives to organizing rallies to standing in front of bulldozers. Future frontlines work may include “geezer blockades” (seniors bearing witness) to prevent incursions into public wildlands that a hostile presidential administration and congress are opening to industrial extraction.
Our conservation science program is currently led by our carnivore conservation biologist Dave Parsons, who previously led the successful (but far from finished!) effort to restore Mexican Wolves to the Southwest. Other leading conservation biologists involved in our work include Michael Soule, Reed Noss, and Brian Miller. We are inviting more conservation biologists to share their wisdom through Rewilding Earth and to use The Rewilding Institute as an organizational home for their work.
Sum: The Rewilding Institute will serve and grow the community of folks dedicated to restoring a wild Earth, in large part through our platform Rewilding Earth. Here will be the campfire that draws together growing numbers of folks who care about our wild neighbors, to share stories and tactics and plot strategies to spread justice not just between peoples but between species. We invite your ideas, stories, art, contributions, and rewilding visions.
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North American Wolf Vision
In 1600, wolves lived in North America from the high Arctic islands to just north of the Valley of Mexico, and from Atlantic to Pacific. Beginning with the earliest European settlements, colonists declared war against wolves. By the middle of the twentieth century, wolves were essentially extirpated from the United States and Mexico.
We now know that the fear of wolves was based on myths, and that wolves are a vital and necessary part of healthy, functioning North American ecosystems. With this new knowledge, tentative efforts have been made to restore wolves in the most out-of-the-way parts of temperate North America.
However, these restoration efforts by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service endeavor only to recover small, geographically isolated populations encompassing a relatively insignificant proportion of their historic range.
Furthermore, the USFWS has no plans for restoring wolves to substantial areas of potentially suitable habitat (the Southern Rocky Mountains, New England, and the Pacific Northwest, for example).
We call for the recovery of wolves across North America. Such recovery means:
- Restoration of wolves in suitable habitat throughout their former range in North America, from the Northern Sierra Madre Occidental in Mexico to the Canadian Rockies and Coast Range, and from the U.S. Pacific Northwest to the Upper Great Lakes and to upstate New York and New England.
- Restoration of potentially suitable habitats and crucial linkages between patches of suitable wolf habitat where wolves are free to behave like wolves.
- Restoration of wolves in ecologically and evolutionarily effective populations so that they may fulfill their natural keystone role of ecosystem regulation, aiding the persistence of native flora and fauna.
- Restoration of wolves throughout this expanse, so that all wolf populations are connected by a continuum of functioning dispersal linkages.
In short, we envision the return of the wolf to its rightful place in North American wildlands, to a community where humans dwell with respect and tolerance for wild species.
- Alaska Wildlife Alliance
- Center for Biological Diversity
- Grand Canyon Wildlands Council
- Great Old Broads for Wilderness
- New Mexico Wilderness Alliance
- Predator Defense
- RESTORE: The North Woods
- Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter
- Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter
- Southwest Environmental Center
- Western Watersheds Project
- Western Wildlife Conservancy
- White Mountain Conservation League
- WildEarth Guardians
- Wild Farm Alliance
- Wild Utah Project
- Wind River Ranch Foundation
North American Mountain Lion Vision
In 1600, mountain lions (pumas, cougars, panthers) lived in North America from the southern edge of the boreal forest south into South America, and from Atlantic to Pacific. Beginning with the earliest European settlements, colonists declared war against mountain lions.
By the beginning of the twentieth century, mountain lions were essentially extirpated from east of the Rocky Mountains in temperate North America. Continuing through the first half of the twentieth century, mountain lions were hunted in the West and in Mexico until their populations were heavily depleted.
We now know that the fear of mountain lions was based on myths, and that mountain lions are a vital and necessary part of healthy, functioning North American ecosystems. Mountain lions gained some protection during the last half of the twentieth century through the efforts of conservationists, ethical hunters, and progressive wildlife managers.
Some 50-100 Florida panthers hold on, now augmented genetically and numerically with the release of Texas lions into their habitat. Mountain lions are back in small numbers in northern Minnesota, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and likely the Ozarks, but federal and state agencies have refused to undertake serious restoration efforts in the East.
We call for the conservation of mountain lions in the West and the recovery of mountain lions east of the Rockies. Such conservation and recovery means:
- Restoration of mountain lions in suitable habitat throughout their former range in North America, from Florida up through the Appalachian Mountains to the Canadian Maritimes, from New England through Ontario to the Upper Great Lakes to the Rockies, from Texas across to Florida, and up through the Ozarks to the Upper Great Lakes.
- Restoration of potentially suitable habitats and crucial linkages between patches of suitable mountain lion habitat where mountain lions are free to behave like mountain lions.
- Restoration of mountain lions in ecologically and evolutionarily effective populations so that they may fulfill their natural keystone role of ecosystem regulation, aiding the persistence of native flora and fauna.
- Restoration of mountain lions throughout this expanse, so that all mountain lion populations are connected by a continuum of functioning dispersal linkages.
- Restoration of a tolerance and appreciation for the mountain lion among local and regional human populations.
In short, we envision the return of the mountain lion to its rightful place in North American wildlands, to a community where humans dwell with respect and tolerance for wild species.
-David Parsons * Michael Soulè * Brian Miller * Dave Foreman
To endorse this vision statement individually or for a group, please contact us.