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  • Thomas Sheils

30 by 30 in Norfolk: Rewilding, ecological restoration and conservation

Updated: Jan 6

On December 19 2022, 190 countries signed on to a groundbreaking international agreement to protect 30% of their land and seas for nature by 2030. This was agreed at the 2022 United Nations Biodiversity Conference, held in Montreal. The objective of the agreement is to half the terrifying loss of nature and biodiversity globally, on the understanding that the costs of inaction far outweigh the costs of action.


So we have the objective. Where do we stand today? Arguably we need know our current performance before we pursue any targets.


Answering this question will rely on granular knowledge from local grassroots organizations - protected natural areas will span private protected areas, conservation by private estates, unofficial but de facto protected zones (in the UK an example would be some lands owned by the Ministry of Defence that have been left to revert to a near natural state) and then legally protected areas as well. This complexity will require significant analysis.

We have started the job for Norfolk, and are looking to map all the areas that are currently protected for nature and comparing their acreage against Norfolk's total. See the map below for further details:


The 30 by 30 Norfolk map


To see the full map in Google My Maps, follow this link.

As of December 2022, we have identified approximately 80 natural capital assets covering 70,300 acres, vs Norfolk's total acreage of 1,358,091 acres. That's an estimated 5.17% of Norfolk's land. These areas have been de facto protected, either by the government or a private landowner, for nature. This is an incomplete figure and we will update the map further as our work continues and more protected areas are identified.


Supporting information can be found in this publicly available Google Sheet.


Note: The figures above include:

  • All of Norfolk's National Nature Reserves (NNRs).

  • All of the rewilding projects known to Rewilding Norfolk.

  • All the reserves owned by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust.

  • All the reserves managed by the RSPB.

  • A small number of minor restoration projects identified by local naturalists.

It does not yet include all Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), but we intend to add these soon.


There is an argument that, given Norfolk's importance as a food producing region, restoring 30% of its land could hurt food security; restoration should instead focus on the English uplands that do not produce as much food. This a valid point. WildEast, the local gentry-led ecological restoration project, has set the objective of restoring 20% of East Anglia's land. 20% is perhaps the more appropriate objective for Norfolk to aim for.


This project will rely on a grassroots effort - if you know of any biodiversity hot spots near you, or you would like to support with the expansion of this map, please do get in touch via who.owns.norfolk@gmail.com or via thomas.e.sheils@gmail.com.


Ecological restoration in West Norfolk (taken in 2022)



The full Who Owns Norfolk map can be seen below:



@Who Owns Norfolk, 2022

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