As we near the end of another interesting year for Scottish beaver conservation it has come to light that 21 influential environmentalists, conservationists and commentators have put their names forward in telling the Scottish Government, enough is enough. The letter (as shown below) is a stark reminder what we stand for as the Scottish Wild Beaver Group and a reminder to the government of what we need to do, going forward in a beneficial way for all.
As transcribed above –
“Dear Scottish Ministers
Beaver Policy in a time of Biodiversity and Climate Crisis
In advance of COP 26, the First Minister wisely called for “credible action, not face-saving slogans” (BBC News – 25 October 2021).
The undersigned ask that the same principles are applied to the Scottish Government’s approach to biodiversity and climate crises, and specifically that “credible action” is urgently taken to address a critical shortcoming in Scottish Government’s current beaver policy.
Since the Eurasian Beaver was declared a European Protected Species in May 2019, over 200 of these biodiversity-boosting animals have been shot under government licence in Tayside. That is over one fifth of Scotland’s total estimated beaver population killed in 24 months – the vast majority of which could have been moved to suitable habitat in other parts of Scotland where their ecosystem engineering would bring multiple environmental benefits to both human and wildlife communities. The failure to consider translocation to new river catchments within Scotland of these hugely popular mammals makes a mockery of the Scottish Government’s “face-saving slogan” that “lethal control is always a last resort”.
Last month, in judicial review proceedings brought in the Court of Session by the charity Trees for Life, Lady Carmichael ruled that NatureScot had “erred in law” by issuing licenses to kill beavers without sufficiently explaining why lethal control measures were necessary. Killing such high numbers of a European Protected Species – especially one which brings multiple environmental benefits – is a national embarrassment. The Scottish Government urgently needs to endorse “out of range” translocation in order to avoid such disgracefully high levels of killing in future.
We call for the following specific changes in policy:
1. To lift the de facto prohibition against the “out of range” translocation of beavers to suitable new river catchments in Scotland and to financially support such translocation where necessary.
2. To implement a meaningful “hierarchy of mitigation” for beaver conflict, moving from “acceptance” through “mitigation” to “translocation” and only then (as a genuine last resort) contemplating lethal control.
3. To revoke all existing lethal control licenses.
4. To refrain from issuing any new lethal control licenses without giving detailed reasons explaining why lesser measures (specifically including translocation to new areas of Scotland) are inappropriate.
Scotlands beavers are a significant ally at a time of climate change – with beaver created wetlands mitigating both drought and downstream flooding, sequestering carbon, improving water quality and creating rich habitat for a wide range of other species. Moving family groups to new river catchments away from conflict sites in low-lying agricultural areas, would be a win for beavers and farmers, a win for the wider environment and a win for Scotland’s people.
An announcement of this change in beaver management policy in the wake of COP26 would be well-timed, publically popular and send a message that the Scottish Government really takes the biodiversity and climate crises seriously.
Allan Bantick OBE
Professor Roger Crofts, CBE
Professor Alastair Driver
Professor James Hunter
Sir John Lister Kaye, OBE
Professor Fiona Mathews
Professor Christopher Smout, CBE, FBA, FRSE
Dr Kenny Taylor
Alan Watson Featherstone
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