Lake District rewilding a destructive fantasy

Date: Tuesday 24th July 2018

Sir, There were four letters directed to me on your letters page of 7th July and I will attempt to answer each briefly.

On “Tattie” Tim, the point is well taken. His courage, presence of mind, common sense and resilience is an inspiration to us all — my intention in visiting him, listening to him and thanking him (in line with the visits that I make to schools or hospitals or military units) was only to ensure that his action was properly acknowledged as a service to the public.

And I am pleased to have the opportunity to restate my admiration for his heroism here.

I also agree with Neil Hughes that very short sentences can do more harm than good (in some prisons the average sentence length is only a matter of days — long enough to disrupt but nothing like long enough to reform the prisoner). There is good evidence that a short prison sentence makes someone more likely to reoffend (thus endangering the public).

But we can do much more to increase the quality of community sentences — through better community pay-back schemes, through electronic tagging and possibly also through more judicial supervision.

Finally, Mr Whalley and Mr Dumont dislike my column, in which I argued against rewilding the Lake District and removing sheep farming. There is no space here to repeat why I believe that true rewilding projects can only work where there is immense space for core, corridors and carnivores (as there is in the Yellowstone national park), or why I believe that attempts at rewilding in our more crowded island would be much less beneficial for biodiversity than more intensively managed environmental restoration

Nor to repeat that farmers like James Rebanks clearly demonstrate how the Lake District can improve the environment without rewilding or stopping sheep farming.

But the key point is that our hill pasture, drystone walls and traditional farms are a last surviving link to the roots and growth of British civilisation. This is why it has been recognised by Unesco as a cultural landscape, as precious to the world as Westminster Cathedral.

Rewilding the Lake District would allow scrub to overrun all these unique features, accumulated by our family farms over thousands of years, creating a landscape more akin to the highlands of Scotland: and in the process destroy the livelihoods of hundreds of farmers, undermine rural communities, and ruin the £2 billion tourism economy on which our constituency depends.

Which is why I reiterate my belief that rewilding the Lake District is a destructive, utopian fantasy that is cruel to indigenous communities, blind to our national traditions and destructive of beauty and meaning. Yours etc,

RORY STEWART

(MP, Penrith and the Border)

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