Beavers – just saying…
This letter was sent on behalf of Wild Justice in response to the DEFRA consultation on Beaver reintroduction.
In para 73 of the consultation DEFRA says ‘We intend to make beavers a European Protected Species by listing them in Schedule 2 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017. This change is to implement legal obligations under the Bern Convention and does not form part of the proposed approach that is being consulted upon.‘.
Wild Justice wishes to comment on those two sentences even though they are not part of the consultation.
- We welcome DEFRA’s intention to make Beaver a European Protected Species by listing this species in Schedule 2 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species regulations 2017. This is long overdue – more than a decade overdue – and is now a matter of urgency. England needs to catch up with Scotland in this regard.
- We believe it is accepted that Beavers were resident in England, Wales and Scotland until 1790, and perhaps later.
- We believe it is accepted that Beavers have been reintroduced in England for at least 19 years: starting at Ham Fen in 2002. Beavers now live unenclosed in the wild in numerous river catchments, particularly in the south west of England. Beavers are also present in Scotland with populations resulting both from an official trial reintroduction and unlicensed introductions.
- In England the Beaver is still listed as an animal ‘no longer normally present’ on Schedule 9 (Part 1B) of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 despite it living in the wild in numerous river catchments across the UK and in England.
- As DEFRA must be aware, changes to Schedule 9 Part 1 of the WCA were made by the Infrastructure Act 2015 (“IA 2015”). Section 24 IA 2015 removed a number of species from Part 1 and inserted them into a new Part 1A (“Native animals”). Section 24 IA 2015 also created a new Part 1B (“Animals no longer normally present”) into which the Wild Boar was inserted, along with the Beaver (which had not previously been listed in Part 1) as the only two species listed.
- And as DEFRA should be aware, during the passage of the Infrastructure Bill, the Minister for Transport, Baroness Kramer confirmed that the purpose of the creation of Part 1B Schedule 9 was to “clarify that former native species—species which were once present in this country but which are or have been absent for a period—should be categorised differently from non-native species for the purposes of these provisions … We recognise that in some circumstances reintroductions can be merited and desirable. Our amendments will mean that where these animals have been reintroduced lawfully following full consideration of their likely impacts by the licensing authority, those animals are out of scope of these powers”.
- The Secretary of State has the power to add species to, or remove species from, Schedule 9 as the need arises under section 22(5) WCA 1981.
- The inclusion of the Beaver in Part 1B was vigorously opposed by a number of MPs and NGOs, including Friends of the Earth, on the grounds that the Beaver was even by that time reestablished in the wild and therefore ‘normally present’ in part due to deliberate and planned reintroductions.
- We welcome the fact that the Secretary of State will review the legal status of the Beaver and intends to recognise Beavers as a European Protected Species. The Secretary of State should also review the listing of this species on Schedule 9 Part 1B of WCA. Should he fail to review the legal status of the Beaver or decide not to amend its status following a review, that decision may be subject to a challenge by way of judicial review. The potential grounds for such a challenge could include the argument that the Secretary of State has failed to have regard to a relevant matter (the existence of healthy wild populations in England).
- We thought we ought to mention our views at this stage to encourage the Secretary of State to make an overdue decision as rapidly as possible.
- We’re pretty sure we could put the Secretary of State in touch with some people who could show him some wild Beavers in England if he remains of the view that they are ‘animals no longer normally present’.