18 March 2009
Natural England and the People’s Trust for Endangered Species assess feasibility of returning beavers to England.
The results of a unique study into the desirability and feasibility of reintroducing the European beaver to the English countryside are published today (Wednesday 18 March) by Natural England and the People’s Trust for Endangered Species.
Beavers were once a common feature in the British countryside but were driven to extinction in England 400 years ago. Recently there has been considerable interest in the potential for their reintroduction, recognising the contribution that beavers make to river and wetland management and to restoring lost biodiversity. The Habitats & Species Directive’s requirement for EU member states to consider the reintroduction of certain regionally-extinct native species has given the issue added weight in recent years.< /p>
In England there are now captive beavers in large enclosures in 5 places around the country. In Scotland, following more than a decade of preparatory research and investigation, the Scottish Executive issued a licence for a trial reintroduction of beavers late in 2008. In Wales, a feasibility study on reintroduction is currently under way.
Against this backdrop, Natural England commissioned this joint scientific study in order to prepare for the growing possibility that it will receive an application for a licence to release beavers soon. Similarly, the People’s Trust for Endangered Species has looked to inform its own view on assessing any future applications for funding any such reintroduction.
Commenting on the report, Tom Tew, Natural England’s Chief Scientist, said: “Natural England has not made decisions yet about whether reintroductions should take place. Decisions about reintroducing the beaver into England need to be made with a full understanding of their potential impacts, which is why we have commissioned this study in advance of receiving any licence applications. Beavers could have a range of environmental benefits but could only be reintroduced under the right conditions. The challenge in considering any future licence application is to ensure that these conditions can be met”.
Jill Nelson, Chief Executive for PTES said: “People’s Trust for Endangered Species has a longstanding interest in beavers and their suitability for reintroduction in the UK. Indeed we have contributed funding to aspects of the current projects in Scotland and in Wales. We welcome this rigorous assessment of the feasibility of beaver reintroductions to England which will help us to consider any proposals to reintroduce beavers there.”
The jointly commissioned report considers the impacts that a beaver reintroduction might have and the conditions under which a reintroduction could be made. Its conclusions suggest that it is clearly feasible to reintroduce beavers into England with many consequent benefits, not least the potential for beavers to assist with river and floodplain restoration. Reintroductions have been successfully made elsewhere in Europe and provide valuable evidence on the measures that need to be put in place to deal with possible adverse consequences. But the report highlights that consideration of candidate sites needs to be accompanied by a number of actions, including wide public consultation and information, effective monitoring and appropriate management at any candidate site.
Notes to editors:
For further information, interviews or photographs please contact:
Beth Rose, Natural England senior press officer: 0300 060 1405 or 07900 608 052.
Jane Bevan, PTES publicist: 01235 835297 or 07977 459 547
The full report can be viewed online at www.naturalengland.org.uk or www.ptes.org