Local farmer opposition to a 're-wilding' project in Wales has successfully headed off an important funding stream for the project because of concerns it would remove their ability to work the land that they farm.

The lead partner in the £3.4m project, Rewilding Britain, announced it had pulled out of the project following criticism from the local community, including the farming industry. In September, another funder, Ecodyfi, withdrew support because it was "increasingly disturbed by the change of attitude to the project in the farming-connected community on which we largely depend".

The 'Summit to Sea' project had wanted to 'increase biodiversity and restore ecosystems' in 10,000ha of mid-Wales and almost 30,000ha of sea in Cardigan Bay.

Community members and farmers' unions were unhappy with the charitable involvement. But Rewilding Britain's chief executive, Rebecca Wrigley, said: "It's an inspiring project about restoring nature, benefitting rural communities and supporting the local economy, but to succeed, it has to be community led and community supported as it finds ways to help both people and nature to thrive."

Earlier this summer the Farmers' Union of Wales (FUW) argued that the project would make it impossible for farmers to continue to live in their communities.

Nick Fenwick, of FUW, said: "It shouldn't exist – it shouldn't be here. It's not good for the economy, for the communities and for the species that already live here.

"There's every scope for working with organisations that recognise the importance of farming and the dangers to our eco-systems of getting rid of farming from habitats in which they've operated for thousands of years. There's no room for working with those who wish to see land abandoned on a huge scale."