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by Roger Ross Gipple

Reconnect-Restore-Rewild has long been the rallying cry for many who are passionate about repopulating apex predators and keystone species while adding back a meaningful amount of woodland, wetland, and prairie previously destroyed by humans. What is required during each of these stages and what is unique about the BeWildReWild Vision of BIG RIVER CONNECTIVITY?

First, we identify existing and potential wildlife habitat cores, corridors and crossings. Attracting one breeding female cougar to reside in the Corn Belt may require a 10,000 acre core. These cores are connected with corridors which often follow rivers. Wildlife crossings allow passage over and under human transportation routes. Our project involves the 32 state Mississippi River Watershed and mainly utilizes steep slopes and frequently flooding river bottoms for cores and corridors, especially in farm country.

Second, we go through a restoration process which insures the establishment of perennial ground cover to reduce soil loss, improve water quality, and encourage a diverse population of flora and fauna. The scale of our vision requires a passive Rewilding approach when possible. In Iowa, Ground Zero for Rewilding, we envision 9 of its 36 million acres permanently wild. States across our watershed with less of the world’s most productive soils will have a higher percentage of wild land to be consistent with E.O. Wilson’s Half-Earth Vision.

Stage three, which can at times begin within 1-5 years, is different from the previous two because it requires little from humans other than to surrender control. Our species is the Great Domesticator…subduing, fragmenting, dumbing down, diminishing, and degrading that which lives around us. We have often tried to overcontrol nature rather than leaving a meaningful part of the landscape wild…self-reliant, spontaneous, self-willed, self-regulating. Rewilding requires us to be trusting and trustworthy in our relations with otherness. I call it TRUSTING WILDNESS. This third stage often presents the process of Reconnect-Restore-Rewild with its biggest challenge.