Long-term plans needed before beavers are reintroduced

Published 19 November 2021

Environment

Defra recently consulted on its proposed approach to the future releases of beavers into the wild. We have submitted our formal response, which you can read on this page.

Defra has said that beavers will become a protected species and consulted on approaches to their reintroduction, including managing the impacts of beavers. The NFU’s consultation response makes it clear that we do not support this decision and we are concerned that the long term impacts of beavers across catchments are not fully understood.

The NFU’s legal team has reviewed this position and cannot find a route to challenge the Defra decision to protect the species. We urge Defra to use the utmost caution with where releases are to be permitted and for impacts across the whole catchment to be assessed first. More action is also needed to address illegal releases of beavers.  

Following Defra's consultation on the reestablishment of beavers in England, NFU environment forum chairman Richard Bramley explained our response.

“The potential impacts that beavers can have on agricultural land are of concern to the NFU; undermining riverbanks, damaging trees, impeding farmland drainage and causing low-lying fields to flood."

Importance of long-term planning

In our consultation response we have made it clear that any beaver reintroduction must be strictly licensed by Natural England and stressed the importance that an approved licence must include a long-term management plan, developed with local farmers and backed with adequate funding.

Mr Bramley continued: "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 to ensure farmers are able to continue producing climate-friendly food, as well as care for the great British countryside and progress towards a net zero future.”

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