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Environmental experts from across the country will gather at Sheffield Hallam University this week to look at solutions to the debates around conservation and wilding or re-wilding British landscapes.

The issue of re-wilding, of which advocates believe land and wildlife should be left untouched and unmanaged to allow it to improve biodiversity and recover from the damage caused by people and their ecological behaviours, has divided opinion amongst environmentalists and conservationists for years.

Those against re-wilding are of the view that it is an abandonment of our environment and could be highly detrimental to the farming and agricultural industries.

The Wilder by Design conference, hosted by Sheffield Hallam's Professor Ian  Rotherham - an expert on a range of environmental topics - will address critical issues of wilding and re-wilding, as well as the ecological history and the impacts of current trends and major socio-economic changes.

The two-day conference held at the University and organised in conjunction with South Yorkshire Biodiversity Research Group and the Biodiversity & Landscape History Research Institute will seek to find a coherent solution to the debate.

The event is supported by the British Ecological Society, IUFRO and the British Association for Nature Conservationists, and sponsored by JBA Consulting.

Those attending the conference will have the opportunity to visit part-wilded sites such as Blackamoor and Big Moor in the Peak District to see how they have been managed and the issues they have encountered during the process, as well as hearing from speakers such as Sir Charles Burrell, whose 3,500-acre Knepp Castle estate in Sussex is undergoing a high profile re-wilding conversion. 

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Professor Ian Rotherham of Sheffield Hallam's Natural and Built Environment department, said: "There are major questions to be answered in terms of the opportunities of ‘wilded’ landscapes to manage future change, but these in turn present issues of carrying capacity, heritage conservation, and animal welfare."

"If we are to ‘wild’ the landscape, then we need to define where this should be and how can the benefits be maximised as well as looking at whether we can deliver long-term, sustainable ecologies and significant growth-poles for rural, tourism economies.

"These are the themes that academics, policy-makers and practitioners will be discussing in detail and we hope we can devise a strategy that will lead to large-scale testing and implementation of new methods to preserve our landscape while at the same time, protecting the future of our economy."

"A key issue is that projects need to be carefully planned so as to account for issues and to involve and engage local people and communities and to work with not against, local economies."

For press information: contact Sarah Duce in the Sheffield Hallam University press office on 0114 225 4025 or email