Some people practice meditation to reach their inner child. I am better at being outdoors, reaching for my inner wild. Which is why I was intrigued when I learned about “rewilding.”

The Rewilding Institute defines this process as a “comprehensive conservation effort to restore sustainable biodiversity and ecosystem health.” Rewilding is achieved largely though protecting wilderness areas and their apex species, as well as connecting nearby wild areas.

One of the leaders of this movement is Dave Foreman, founder of the Rewilding Institute. Foreman sees the movement as building on environmentalist David Brower’s concept of Global CPR (Conserve, Protect, and Restore). Global CPR originally focused on ecological processes while rewilding attempts to incorporate the restoration of native wildlife as well.

Montana and Colorado are rewilding parts of the prairie using donated and purchased farmland and cattle ranches. The American Prairie Reserve and the Heartland Ranch Nature Preserve are home again to bison, pronghorn, elk and deer. These prey species attract apex predators like wolves, bears and bobcats.

Some rewilded reserves offer yurt camping and even safari-style adventures to spot these majestic creatures in the wild.

After condors became extinct in the wild in 1987, California began a breeding and reintroduction program that released its first birds in 1992. Now at least a half dozen condors glide Eastern Santa Barbara County’s Dick Smith and San Raphael Wilderness areas.

The condor is still regarded as one of the rarest birds in the world, but populations in Pinnacles National Park in Central California and Tehachapi north of Los Angeles bring the total population to well over 100.

One of the most difficult problems has been removing spent rounds of lead bullets in the backcountry. The toxic bullets have been fully banned since 2019 but spent rounds will poison the environment for the foreseeable future.

The Frank and Joan Randall Tehachapi Preserve is yielding more space for condors as well as mountain lions, mule deer and bobcats. The preserve is considered by some conservationists as a critical link in protecting contiguous lands from Canada to Mexico. The eventual hope is to “rewild” the preserve with reintroduced species to mimic the biodiversity of pre-Columbian America.

Wolves are important species in linking functioning ecosystems. The California Wolf Center in the Cuyamaca Mountains between San Diego and the Anza Borrego Desert is a great place to begin understanding the importance of wolves. The Wolf Center operates a conservation facility outside of Julian which groups can arrange to visit.

The Center in Julian shows an amazing 20-minute video reviewing the miraculous healing of Yellowstone National Park. The reintroduction of wolves in 1995 cascaded to the recovery of diverse populations from foxes and beavers to salmon and the riverine habitat itself.

A deficiency in the rewilding movement has been the absence of the perspectives of indigenous people. Dr. Deana Dartt, a Coastal Chumash and Mestiza native and principal of Live Oak Consulting, notes that “The rewilding movement, while aligned with many indigenous philosophies and practices, has been historically non-indigenous and therefore unintentionally marginalizes Native people.”

Indigenous people often have local land knowledge and vital history that is essential to healing the environment and the communities that share them. Their voices will be important in expanding successful rewilding efforts.

Restoring the health of the environment is important for the outer wild as well as our inner child. Rewilding will happen with our support of such habitats; rechilding can happen as you visit — in person or online — the natural spaces being rewilded in California and around the country.

— Karen Telleen-Lawton serves seniors and pre-seniors as the principal of Decisive Path Fee-Only Financial Advisory in Santa Barbara. You can reach her with your financial planning questions at Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

Karen Telleen-Lawton

Karen Telleen-Lawton, Noozhawk Columnist

Karen Telleen-Lawton is an eco-writer, sharing information and insights about economics and ecology, finances and the environment. Having recently retired from financial planning and advising, she spends more time exploring the outdoors — and reading and writing about it. The opinions expressed are her own.