Plans to release beavers into the wild in England have been set out in a consultation – marking a cautious step towards further reintroductions and establishing native beaver populations.
Under the Government’s proposals, applications for licences to release beavers into the wild would need to meet certain criteria, including demonstrating positive stakeholder engagement and local buy in, and proof that a comprehensive assessment has been undertaken of the impacts on surrounding land, the water environment, infrastructures, habitats, and protected species. Projects must also ensure that support for landowners and river users is put in place.
The consultation follows a successful reintroduction in Devon – the River Otter beavers reintroduction trial – which, according to DEFRA "brought a wealth of benefits to the local area and ecology, including enhancing the environment at a local wildlife site, creating wetland habitat, and reducing flood risk for housing downstream."
The 12-week consultation is seeking views on:
- Potential future releases into the wild
- Current and future releases into enclosures
- Mitigation and management of beaver activity or impacts in the wild, including the River Otter population and all other existing wild living beaver populations.
A Countryside Alliance spokeswoman said:
"There is undoubtedly a desire to see some species reintroduced to the UK countryside and beavers, for example, are among those that could well yield positive results.
“The views of those rural people who will ultimately be most impacted by such a reintroduction, however, must be taken on board, as well as there being a need for a management plan to address any serious conflicts that may arise.”
The National Farmers' Union environment forum chairman Richard Bramley told the Mirror: “It is positive that any reintroduction will be strictly licensed by Natural England and it is important any approved licensing includes a long-term management plan, developed with local farmers and backed with adequate funding.
“Any impact on a farmer’s ability to produce food needs to be included as part of a full impact assessment carried out before any licence is issued.
He added: “We must remember that beaver reintroductions can have negative impacts; potentially undermining riverbanks, damaging trees, impeding farmland drainage and causing low-lying fields to flood. Where there is a financial impact on a farm business, adequate compensation must be made and an exit strategy must be in place should major issues occurs.”
Secretary of State George Eustice said:
"Today marks a significant milestone for the reintroduction of beavers in the wild, with the launch of the Government’s consultation on our national approach and management of beavers in England.
"“But we also understand that there are implications for landowners, so we are taking a cautious approach to ensure that all potential impacts are carefully considered.”
The consultation is now LIVE. Should you wish to take part, please click here.