A passionate, optimistic account of a sometimes successful movement aimed at restoring natural habitats.
During the past decades, nature researchers have discovered a practical tactic for preserving native environments and slowing the massive extinction now in progress. “Rewilding,” writes journalist Fraser (God’s Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church, 1999), does not try to re-create wilderness, but it requires “Cores, Corridors, and Carnivores.” Cores such as national parks are too small to do the job alone. Censuses in American parks always show a steady decline in the number of species. Corridors connecting refuges enable wildlife to disperse widely and multiply; they may include farms and even towns, but barriers (fences and highways) are disastrous. Fraser notes that large predators are the key to maintaining species diversity. In the absence of wolves, deer eat everything in sight. More bird species thrive when coyotes are present than when they are absent because coyotes eat domestic cats, the leading bird-killer. The author focuses on several dozen projects around the world, ranging from modest links between two parks to massive ongoing efforts to connect a million square miles from Yellowstone Park in Wyoming to the Yukon in northern Canada (“Y2Y”) and in southern Africa. Sad experience has taught that successful schemes require money, long-term commitment, relatively honest governments and—most important—cooperation of the people living on the land.
Fraser’s colorful stories do not conceal rewilding’s painful educational curve and mixed results, but she makes a convincing case that it represents the only realistic strategy for conserving our steadily diminishing wildlife.