Everything under control? Comparing Knepp Estate rewilding project with ‘traditional’ nature conservation

Dempsey, Benedict (2021) Everything under control? Comparing Knepp Estate rewilding project with ‘traditional’ nature conservation. PLOS ONE, 16 (6). a0241160 1-24. ISSN 1932-6203

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‘Rewilding’ is an increasingly prominent concept in conservation, but one that has attracted controversy. Debate frequently focuses on human ‘control’ over nature. ‘Traditional’ conservation has been presented as involving ‘high control,’ and rewilding as ‘low control.’ Opposition to rewilding often stems from a perceived lack of control and associated perception of increased risk and uncertainty. This paper explores the concept of control in conservation. I identify multiple dimensions of control (‘stabilisation’, ‘location’, ‘prediction’ and ‘outputs’), illustrating that control is not a simple, linear concept. I compare two ethnographic case studies: the Sussex Wildlife Trust’s Old Lodge nature reserve; and Knepp Estate, one of the most influential rewilding projects in the UK. I use them to test assertions made about control in ‘traditional’ conservation and ‘rewilding’. I outline how Old Lodge does not exert precise control in all respects, but involves elements of uncertainty and negotiation. I describe how Knepp’s model of rewilding reduces control in some dimensions but potentially increases it in others. I conclude that, while Knepp’s rewilding does represent a significant conceptual departure from ‘traditional’ conservation, it should not be characterised as an approach that reduces control in a simplistic way. Based on this analysis, I argue that reduction of control does not necessarily underpin the concept of rewilding. Rather, there is interplay between different control dimensions that combine to form multiple ‘configurations of control.’ Using a framework of ‘configurations of control’, debate about the place of rewilding in conservation can become less polarised, and instead involve an active discussion of what configuration of control is desired. This analysis has the potential to increase understanding of rewilding projects as part of plural conservation strategies, in the UK and globally.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Research Article, Ecology and environmental sciences, Biology and life sciences
Schools and Departments: University of Sussex Business School > SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit
SWORD Depositor: Publications Router
Depositing User: Publications Router
Date Deposited: 03 Nov 2021 12:26
Last Modified: 03 Nov 2021 12:26
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/99545

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