Utilising the benefits

There is substantial opportunity to assess and disseminate best practice for translating the benefits from wild areas into specific light impact ventures – the aim being to maximize their worth for local communities, landholders and other relevant parties.

Careful attention should be paid to ensure an appropriate balance between benefit-related activities and the need for strict maintenance of ‘wild’ principles and negligible disturbance for wildlife.

Only those activities with negligible environmental impact would be suitable in core wild areas, whilst a broader range of undertakings could apply to land undergoing substantial restoration.

Activities relevant to wild areas:

  • Nature tourism
  • Combined packages (agri-tourism, culture, history)
  • Recreational, general sporting
  • Specialist sporting
  • Corporate events, training, incentives and relationship building
  • Healthcare, physiology, eco/psycholog
  • Youth development
  • Youth at risk
  • Reconciliation and conflict mitigation
  • Education (child, adult), research

Economic benefits from these activities:

  • Direct income and employment
  • Branding and logo opportunities for specific goods and services produced in the wild areas – eg ‘wilderness experiences’ – or its vicinity – eg ‘wild’ meat, dairy products, honey; in the latter case, experience suggests the product also needs a distinguishing intrinsic quality such as being organically produced
  • The ‘umbrella effect’ whereby the existence of a wild area can strengthen the marketing appeal of unrelated tourism venues nearby
  • Ancillary services – accommodation, catering, transport, retail and handicraft

Capacity building for local communities and landholders

  • Opportunity to benefit from wild areas can be limited by lack of existing facilities, and here appropriate capacity building is important.
  • Appropriate support can help grow local businesses
  • Identifying and quantifying specific opportunities
  • Improving the quality and capacity of local provision – eg bed and breakfast, small hotels and hostels, retail merchandising
  • Appropriate advice on business planning, management, marketing, employment
  • Ensuring appropriate systems are in place – eg counseling, accreditation, collective marketing, funding, training
  • Advising on best practice in start up or development of specific initiatives or ventures: whether private sector, community, NGO or local authority

Utilising ecosystem services

The above approach mainly applies to utilization of economic and social benefits.

It is also feasible to collate best practice in identification and usage of ecosystem services – eg

  • Linking carbon markets to landowner ecosystem services – ensuring appropriate compensation for existing landholders, or sufficient funding for buy-outs of land where restoration of natural habitat (woodland or marshland) has an appreciable impact on carbon sequestration.
  • Engaging utility & insurance funding in flood mitigation, through quantifying the impact that upstream watershed or lowland sink habitat and process restoration or protection can produce by slowing and diminishing the volume and variance in discharge and thus enabling downstream savings in flood insurance, capital expenditure on flood defences.
  • Similarly, through pollution mitigation effects reducing downstream water treatment costs.

Development of markets for social benefits

As social benefits from wild areas become more widely appreciated, and increasingly underwritten by scientifically based studies, it is also increasingly feasible to develop wider ‘markets’ especially for newer activities such as youth at risk or healthcare.

Two examples here are:

  • Probationary services. Cost savings from lower reoffending rates or non-custodial treatment can be used to promote youth at risk ventures to decision takers in Home Office ministries and probation services who allocate funding and determine budgets.
  • National health services. Similar opportunities exist for quantified promotion of benefits of wild areas for treatment of psychological conditions, including general health & well-being, stress, trauma.

In both cases promotion plans are needed, developed by conservation agencies or NGOs in tandem with the relevant social service providers.