NFU raises concern over beaver reintroduction plans

Beavers could be released in the wild in England, the government announced in August
Beavers could be released in the wild in England, the government announced in August

Any beaver reintroduction must include a management plan developed with local farmers, the NFU has said, following concern over the animal's potential impacts on farmland.

Beavers could be released in the wild in England as part of government's plans included in a 12-week consultation launched in August.

The consultation, which closed for responses this week, sought views on the potential future releases into the wild and current and future releases into enclosures.

It also sought views on mitigation and management of beaver activity or impacts in the wild, including the River Otter population and all other existing wild beaver populations.

Under the proposals, applications for licences to release beavers into the wild would need to meet certain criteria, including a comprehensive assessment of the impacts on surrounding land.

And any reintroduction project would also need the support of farmers, landowners and river users, the government explained.

As part of its response to the consultation, the NFU said the potential impacts that beavers could have on agricultural land were of concern.

The union highlighted risks such as undermining riverbanks, damaging trees, impeding farmland drainage and causing low-lying fields to flood.

NFU environment forum chairman Richard Bramley said: “In our consultation response we have made it clear that any beaver reintroduction must be strictly licensed by Natural England.

"[We] stressed the importance that an approved licence must include a long-term management plan, developed with local farmers and backed with adequate funding.

"Where there is a financial impact on a farm business, adequate compensation should also be made and an exit strategy in place should major issues occur."

“The government has made it clear that it will sanction reestablishment of beavers, so we will work with them, Natural England and all interested parties."

Plans to give beavers legal protection in England were also announced as part of the plans, which would make it an offence to deliberately capture, kill, disturb or injure beavers, or damage breeding sites or resting places.

Defra Secretary George Eustice said: "We are committed to providing opportunities to reintroduce formerly native species, such as beavers, where the benefits for the environment, people and the economy are clear.

"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 government said a summary of responses would be published in early 2022.