Reintroduction of beavers in England under consultation

Photo by Svetozar Cenisev on Unsplash

Plans to release beavers into the wild in England have been set out in new a consultation, marking ‘a cautious step’ towards further reintroductions and establishing native beaver populations.

Beavers can play ‘a hugely significant’ role in helping to restore nature to England.

Widely referred to as ‘ecosystem engineers’, they create dams from trees, mud and rocks, which raise water levels, creating pools and wetland habitats which support the recovery of a wide range of native species.

Secretary of State George Eustice commented: “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.”

Under the Government’s proposals, applications for licences to release beavers into the wild would need to meet certain criteria, including demonstrating positive stakeholder engagement and local buy in, and proof that a comprehensive assessment has been undertaken of the impacts on surrounding land, the water environment, infrastructures, habitats, and protected species.

Projects must also ensure that support for landowners and river users is put in place.

The consultation follows a successful reintroduction in Devon, the River Otter beavers reintroduction trial, which over five years brought ‘a wealth of benefits’ to the local area and ecology, including enhancing the environment at a local wildlife site, creating wetland habitat, and reducing flood risk for housing downstream.

The 12-week consultation is seeking views on:

  • Potential future releases into the wild
  • Current and future releases into enclosures
  • Mitigation and management of beaver activity or impacts in the wild, including the River Otter population and all other existing wild living beaver populations

Plans to give beavers legal protection in England have also been announced to support their recovery. This will make it an offence to deliberately capture, kill, disturb or injure beavers, or damage breeding sites or resting places.

The ‘Beaver reintroduction and management in England’-consultation closes at 11:45pm on 17 November 2021.

More information about this consultation and how to take part is available on the UK Government website.