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Wild Justice supports Beavers and Beaver Trust


Wild Justice is one of very many organisations and individuals asking DEFRA to facilitate Beaver reintroductions in England. Here is a joint lettter sent this week to DEFRA. When you look at the list of signatories it is pretty impressive.

The Rt Hon George Eustice MP, Secretary of State

The Rt Hon Victoria Prentis MP, Minister for Agriculture

Tony Juniper, Chair, Natural England and Ex Officio Board Member

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,

2 Marsham Street,

London,

SW1P 4DF.

8th May 2020

LETTER OF SUPPORT: A BRIGHT FUTURE FOR BRITISH BEAVERS

Dear Minister Eustice, Minister Prentis and Mr Juniper,

The Government has declared a climate and ecological emergency. Britain is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world, ranked 189th out of 218. Only 14% of our rivers are in good ecological condition. 

The 6 goals of the Government’s commendable 25 Year Environment Plan commit to provide clean air, water, a thriving ecology, a reduced impact from natural events, to use resources from nature sustainably and to ensure ‘beauty, heritage and engagement’ with our natural environment. They are all in large part entirely satisfied by the ecosystem engineering activities of the Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber).

Beavers are nature’s builders. Scientists stress that this single species is not a keystone element in nature but rather an entirely unique force on its own. Beavers create complex wetland mosaics along the length of water courses. These features slow the flow of water and purify it of toxins; store water during droughts and, when widely present in upper water-sheds of wooded catchments, reduce the impact of flooding events. And, they regenerate biodiversity in great abundance, providing food-rich habitats for wildlife.  

Beavers are a native species. Our remaining, but diminished, kaleidoscope of wetland wildlife from fish to frogs, water voles to great white egrets, is entirely attuned to their activity. The only reason for their absence from our modern countryside is our past overhunting for their lustrous fur, meat and valuable scent glands. Their critical importance is evidenced by broad scientific research indicating we can only recover nature sustainably, and with its desirable socio-economic functions, if we restore the beaver. 

A decade of learning from Scotland, combined with the 5-year project now concluded on the River Otter in Devon demonstrate unambiguously the benefits of beavers far outweigh the issues. With a wealth of experience from Europe, any undesirable beaver impacts can be mitigated swiftly by professional field staff. The species’ presence is entirely tolerable in many modern, cultural British landscapes.

Public support for beavers from town and country is high and rising, with recent newspaper editorials backing their return. When indicating political support in the Telegraph for the engineering activities of the ‘humble, native beaver’, Minister Eustice encouraged innovative solutions to help prevent a repeat of the disastrous 2020 floods.  

As a result, many owners of the great estates and prominent NGOs have, while a final decision on the Otter Report is awaited in August 2020, applied for licences to keep beavers in large, near-natural securely fenced enclosures. Community groups, including local government, are planning wild releases across catchments and regions too.

The Eurasian beaver, but not the Canadian (Castor canadensis), is the only rodent species in the world (including the dangerous larger porcupines and the pony-sized Capybara) which requires an enclosure permit in England – but not in Wales or Scotland. The security and standards of these projects have been unprecedented. Since they began, not a single instance of escape has occurred. If new permits are terminated as an option, and in the absence of any ability to import beavers from Europe, the availability of British born beavers for any wider programme of release in the near future will be critically limited. Without demand from new English sites, translocation of further beavers in low numbers under licence from Scottish Natural Heritage from intensively farmed, arable landscapes will cease and result in them being shot.

We believe this is inappropriate and missing an opportunity. It is now time to focus our collective efforts on a swift and active process of beaver restoration. We will produce a position paper regarding details of this shortly.

This letter is to state our whole-hearted support for beavers and the tenets of the Governments’ 25 Year Environment Plan which their restoration will greatly assist. We would like to ask you 2 questions:

  1. Will you commit to making policy decisions this year on producing a pragmatic and ambitious strategy for beaver reintroduction in England?
  2. Will you ensure there is no moratorium on the current, effective system of beaver licensing and to expedite applications if they are reasonable and competent?

We invite you to meet with Beaver Trust and relevant signatories to discuss these questions. Together we can reconnect people with nature, incentivise them to relearn how to live with beavers and build climate resilience.

Thank you for the energy and resources you are committing to secure a brighter future for us all.

Yours sincerely,

James Wallace, for Beaver Trust, and the signatories below.

Environmental NGOs  
Beccy SpeightChief ExecutiveRSPB
Craig BennettChief ExecutiveThe Wildlife Trusts
Darren MoorcroftChief ExecutiveWoodland Trust
Dominic JermeyChief ExecutiveZoological Society of London
Hilary McGradyDirector-GeneralNational Trust
James RobinsonDirector of ConservationWildfowl and Wetlands Trust
Jamie PetersDirector of CampaignsFriends of the Earth
John SauvenExecutive DirectorGreenpeace UK
Mark RoseChief ExecutiveFlora and Fauna International
Mike BarrettExecutive Director of Science & ConservationWWF-UK
Environmental Organisations  
Alasdair HarrisExecutive DirectorBlue Ventures
Andrew KerrChairmanSustainable Eel Group
Andrew SimmsCo-FounderNew Weather Institute
Chris PriceChief ExecutiveRare Breeds Survival Trust
David Gasca-TuckerPrincipal HydrologistAtkins Global
Dean GodsonDirectorPolicy Exchange
Derek GowDirectorDerek Gow Consultancy
Fiona MathewsChief ExecutiveThe Mammal Society
Frans SchepersChief ExecutiveRewilding Europe
Gary RumboldDirectorNational FWAG Association
James ThorntonChief ExecutiveClientEarth
James WallaceCo-DirectorBeaver Trust
Jan StannardChief ExecutiveHeal Rewilding
Jeremy BiggsDirectorFreshwater Habitats Trust
Jill NelsonChief ExecutivePeople’s Trust for Endangered Species
Julie WilliamsChief ExecutiveButterfly Conservation Trust
Lesley DickieChief ExecutiveDurrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
Liz HoskenDirectorGaia Foundation
Louise RamsayChairScottish Wild Beaver Group
Martin LinesChairNature Friendly Farming Network
Nick FoxFounderBevis Trust
Paul ListerChief ExecutiveThe European Nature Trust
Peter CairnsDirectorScotland the Big Picture
Philp LymberyChief ExecutiveCompassion in World Farming
Rebecca Wrigley, Alastair DriverChief Executive, DirectorRewilding Britain
Roy DennisDirectorRoy Dennis Wildlife Foundation
Ruth TingayPartnerWild Justice
Sara LomChief ExecutiveThe Tree Council
Shaun SpiersDirectorGreen Alliance
Toby AykroydCoordinatorWild Europe Initiative
Tony GentChief ExecutiveAmphibian and Reptile Conservation
    Estates  
Archie Ruggles-BrisePartnerSpains Hall Estate
Charlie Burrell and Isabella TreeOwnersKnepp Estate
John Mildmay-WhiteOwnerFlete Estate
Lady Elizabeth AshcombeOwnerSudeley Castle Estate
Merlin Hanbury-TennisonOwnerCabilla Farm
Mish KennawayOwnerEscot Estate
Sam GalsworthyOwnerTrewin Estate
The Duchess of RichmondOwnerGoodwood House
The Duchess of RutlandOwnerBelvoir Castle
The Duke of SomersetOwnerMaiden Bradley Estate
The Marquess of CholmondeleyOwnerCholmondeley Estate
Thomas MacDonellDirector of ConservationWildland
  Individuals  
Axel MoehrenschlagerChair IUCN SSC Conservation Translocation Specialist GroupIUCN Conservation Translocation Group
Charles CloverExecutive DirectorBlue Marine Foundation
Craig ShuttleworthResearch FellowBangor University
Deborah MeadenEnvironmentalist, entrepreneurDeborah Meaden
George MonbiotGuardian columnist, author, environmental activistIndependent
Hugh Fearnley-WhittingstallEnvironmentalist, TV presenterIndependent
Iolo WilliamsNaturalist, TV presenter, conservationistIndependent
Jonathon PorrittEnvironmentalist, writerIndependent
Sacha DenchUN Ambassador for Migratory SpeciesUnited Nations