“In a de-natured countryside, it is pertinent to ask whether the greater good of the environment is really served by channelling so much conservation money into one species. Plenty of fauna and flora are extinct or locally extinct — including the hare, the corncrake, the ghost orchid. Any of them might appreciate some of the cash thrown at Castor fiber.” [John Lewis-Stempel, nature-writer, @ Unherd]
East Devon is very proud of having the first sighting of beavers in the wild in England: Futures Forum: On the River Otter: First ever video of a wild beaver in England
[Although, actually, there might have been sightings earlier than 2014: Futures Forum: On the River Otter: First ever video of a wild beaver in England… but two and a half years ago…]
In 2020, we had the River Otter Beaver Trial Science and Evidence Report, after they were allowed to stay: On the River Otter: final beaver report – Vision Group for Sidmouth
There have subsequently been plans to reintroduce beavers to other parts of the UK: Futures Forum: Reintroducing beavers to Cornwall – to mitigate flooding – to filter water – to enhance biodiversity
With arguments for and against: Futures Forum: On the River Otter: Five reasons why we should [not] reintroduce beavers to Britain’s rivers
This is from the lasest arguments against the reintroduction of beavers, from the UnHerd news and opinion blog, from last week:
The champagne corks must be popping pretty much continually at Beaver Trust HQ. Having been reintroduced to these isles in 2008, there are now about 2,000 Castor fiber out and about in Great Britain, swimming and munching trees from Cornwall to Scotland. Last year, two pairs were even released in London, the first introduction of the animal into a British urban area. Meanwhile, the Government has granted beavers protected species status, classifying them as “native”. All of this has been greeted with positive, if platitudinous, press.
After all, who doesn’t love beavers? As well as providing a furry flood-defence, beavers are lauded as “ecosystem engineers” for their stimulation of biodiversity. Their fans range from Michael Gove — who, as Environment Secretary, splurged £20,000 on a trial to reintroduce the rodents to the River Otter — to the residents of Pickering, in Yorkshire, whose homes were saved from flooding by an upstream beaver dam slowing excess water. Reassuringly, the Rewilding Britain charity informs us: “Beavers are vegan and don’t eat fish or other animals.”…
In a de-natured countryside, it is pertinent to ask whether the greater good of the environment is really served by channelling so much conservation money into one species. Plenty of fauna and flora are extinct or locally extinct — including the hare, the corncrake, the ghost orchid. Any of them might appreciate some of the cash thrown at Castor fiber. Rabbit, like beavers, are “eco-system engineers”. Their numbers decreased 83% in Scotland between 1996 and 2018. Where is the fuss on their behalf? Is it lacking because bunnies don’t satisfy the rewilders’ romantic fantasies of the return of the wildwood?
Yes, beavers are engaging ambassadors for nature — no small matter — and yes, they have value as tourist attractions. But only for now, while their numbers are limited. When our countryside and towns heave with beavers, they will lose their appeal. When they cause the environment more problems than they solve, we will regret idealising them. It’s time to press pause on beaver reintroduction. Before they become a damn costly pest.
The author of the piece is also a sheep farmer: The Sheep’s Tale by John Lewis-Stempel – daughterofashepherd and (18) John Lewis-Stempel (@JLewisStempel) / Twitter
And prize-winning nature writer for the Times and Country Life: John Lewis-Stempel – Wikipedia and A day in the life of an oak tree, from mistle thrush in the morning to mice at midnight – Country Life