On Tuesday the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee held the first oral evidence session of its new inquiry into species reintroduction. With this first session focusing on academics, MPs on the Committee heard from a range of experts to inform their recommendations on future Government policy.
The inquiry was launched with a call for evidence that allowed any interested party to submit their views. The Countryside Alliance submitted a response which the Committee has now published: you can read our evidence in full online.
We agree with the statement the Committee made in framing the inquiry, that "Species reintroductions have the potential to help the government meet its biodiversity goals, as well as benefit local communities, restore ecosystems and secure the future of organisms in the wild. However, reintroductions need careful long-term management plans to manage any adverse effects on other land users or local communities".
We are not opposed to species reintroductions as such. The guiding principle must be that only the right species are reintroduced in the right place and with an acceptance that wildlife management may be necessary, including lethal control. Reintroductions must only take place where there has been full engagement with local communities and those who will be directly impacted, subject to a full risk assessment. There also needs to be more clarity on how account is to be taken of national impacts, even where a local reintroduction may be appropriate.
Species reintroduction is often seen as part of rewilding, a nebulous concept that at its most extreme has been taken to mean the withdrawal of human engagement from areas of the countryside. Experience has shown that without human engagement biodiversity does not automatically increase, not least where apex predators are unmanaged. For example, were wolves to be reintroduced into the UK where they have no natural predator, we would have a responsibility to ensure that wolf populations were sustainable, preventing negative impacts on other species and the totality of biodiversity. The challenge posed by the level of deer populations shows what happens when a species is successful but there is insufficient management in many places.
We look forward to following this inquiry as it develops. You can watch the meeting on the Committee's website.
To support our work standing up for responsible wildlife management and the environmental and agricultural activities that rely on it, please consider joining the Countryside Alliance today.