Wildwood Trust’s recent press activity including a piece on Radio 4’s Today Programme and articles in the Telegraph and Express on our Devon Wolf project have causes a stir on social media. I have been lambasted in comments as a fool etc. But what kind of fool am I for wanting to see the return of wolves and bears to the UK.
My critics have said wolves would be dangerous and costly if returned to Scotland. But would they? Many conservationist favouring classical conservation have said we should have rewilding ‘lite’ such as letting roadside verges go wild but not the wolves.
As a small thought experiment (trust me I have not been drinking!): let’s compare the negative externalities of 2 forms of rewilding:
- Leaving roadside verges uncut (rewilding 'Lite')
- Reintroducing 5 packs of wolves to Scotland
Rewild the VergeGrass verges (I did a contract on this in 1994 for Scottish Wildlife Trust putting a tender in for managing major road verges for wildlife for the then Scottish Office) calculating the negative impacts this could cause about 1 to 5 deaths a year due to more dangerous conditions for visibility when driving. Tree growth could cause about 200k of damage to roads a year. Net gain in biodiversity about 20,000 hectares + appreciable benefit in wildlife corridors.
Rewild the WolfWolf reintroduction say 1 death every 10 to 20 years (probably save more in deer collision road deaths). Would cause land abandonment and net loss of income by some £200 Million to sheep farms and hunting estates as thier businesses become uneconomic. But tourist income would probably be equal or more and would save the taxpayer about 200 Million in agricultural subsidies and another 200 million in tax dodging land scams. Net gain in wildlife habitat lets be conservative and say 250,000 hectares.
So rewilding with road verges would be an order of magnitude more dangerous to people and be far less cost effective costing the tax payer more!
Interesting most of the benefits of wolves go to the average Scot in more jobs and economic activity and Government revenue for public services and the benefits of not having wolves go to landowners and tax dodgers...
I would be interested in any informed criticism of my guesswork!