The Environment Secretary, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, has approved a request from the Forestry Commission to trial the release of a family of four beavers into the Forest of Dean.

Beavers were last seen in the Forest 400 years ago and the Forestry Commission believes that their reintroduction will reduce flood risk for the local village of Lydbrook by building natural dams and ponds to slow the flow of water through the catchment area of the River Wye.

The Environment Secretary commented: “The beaver has a special place in English heritage and the Forest of Dean proposal is a fantastic opportunity to help bring this iconic species back to the countryside 400 years after it was driven to extinction”.

He went on to say: “The community of Lydbrook has shown tremendous support for this proposal and the beavers are widely believed to be a welcome addition to local wildlife”.

The Environment Secretary hopes the Forest village of Lydbrook will be a trailblazer and other parts of the country will follow the Forest of Dean’s example.

The Countryside Alliance has expressed concerns about ‘rewilding’ being adopted as a general policy and believes it is right that trial releases are decided on a case by case basis.

Head of Policy at the Countryside Alliance, Sarah Lee, commented: “The countryside is a living and working environment, and any change in land use needs to consider the environmental, social, and economic consequences of the proposed change. The impact of reintroduction on farmers and other rural businesses should not be overlooked and there must be processes in place to raise concerns and seek compensation if land or property is damaged”.

Sarah went on to say: “If beavers can be shown to improve the natural environment without expense to local businesses or communities then their release should be welcomed. However, there must be safeguards in place and the ability to reverse the decision if the benefits promised by the Forestry Commission not do materialise. The need for local consent and accountability are vital”.