Beaver eating bramble. Credit: David Parkyn

Credit: David Parkyn

Beavers: Letter of Support to Defra and Natural England

The Rt Hon George Eustice MP, Secretary of State

The Rt Hon Victoria Prentis MP, Minister for Agriculture

Tony Juniper, Chair, Natural England and Ex Officio Board Member

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,

2 Marsham Street,

London,

SW1P 4DF.

8th May 2020

LETTER OF SUPPORT: A BRIGHT FUTURE FOR BRITISH BEAVERS

Dear Minister Eustice, Minister Prentis and Mr Juniper,

The Government has declared a climate and ecological emergency. Britain is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world, ranked 189th out of 218. Only 14% of our rivers are in good ecological condition. 

The 6 goals of the Government’s commendable 25 Year Environment Plan commit to provide clean air, water, a thriving ecology, a reduced impact from natural events, to use resources from nature sustainably and to ensure ‘beauty, heritage and engagement’ with our natural environment. They are all in large part entirely satisfied by the ecosystem engineering activities of the Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber).

Beavers are nature’s builders. Scientists stress that this single species is not a keystone element in nature but rather an entirely unique force on its own. Beavers create complex wetland mosaics along the length of water courses. These features slow the flow of water and purify it of toxins; store water during droughts and, when widely present in upper water-sheds of wooded catchments, reduce the impact of flooding events. And, they regenerate biodiversity in great abundance, providing food-rich habitats for wildlife.  

Beavers are a native species. Our remaining, but diminished, kaleidoscope of wetland wildlife from fish to frogs, water voles to great white egrets, is entirely attuned to their activity. The only reason for their absence from our modern countryside is our past overhunting for their lustrous fur, meat and valuable scent glands. Their critical importance is evidenced by broad scientific research indicating we can only recover nature sustainably, and with its desirable socio-economic functions, if we restore the beaver.  

A decade of learning from Scotland, combined with the 5-year project now concluded on the River Otter in Devon demonstrate unambiguously the benefits of beavers far outweigh the issues. With a wealth of experience from Europe, any undesirable beaver impacts can be mitigated swiftly by professional field staff. The species’ presence is entirely tolerable in many modern, cultural British landscapes.

Public support for beavers from town and country is high and rising, with recent newspaper editorials backing their return. When indicating political support in the Telegraph for the engineering activities of the ‘humble, native beaver’, Minister Eustice encouraged innovative solutions to help prevent a repeat of the disastrous 2020 floods.  

As a result, many owners of the great estates and prominent NGOs have, while a final decision on the Otter Report is awaited in August 2020, applied for licences to keep beavers in large, near-natural securely fenced enclosures. Community groups, including local government, are planning wild releases across catchments and regions too.

The Eurasian beaver, but not the Canadian (Castor canadensis), is the only rodent species in the world (including the dangerous larger porcupines and the pony-sized Capybara) which requires an enclosure permit in England – but not in Wales or Scotland. The security and standards of these projects have been unprecedented. Since they began, not a single instance of escape has occurred.

If new permits are terminated as an option, and in the absence of any ability to import beavers from Europe, the availability of British born beavers for any wider programme of release in the near future will be critically limited. Without demand from new English sites, translocation of further beavers in low numbers under licence from Scottish Natural Heritage from intensively farmed, arable landscapes will cease and result in them being shot. 

We believe this is inappropriate and missing an opportunity. It is now time to focus our collective efforts on a swift and active process of beaver restoration. We will produce a position paper regarding details of this shortly.

This letter is to state our whole-hearted support for beavers and the tenets of the Governments’ 25 Year Environment Plan which their restoration will greatly assist. We would like to ask you 2 questions:

  1. Will you commit to making policy decisions this year on producing a pragmatic and ambitious strategy for beaver reintroduction in England?
  2. Will you ensure there is no moratorium on the current, effective system of beaver licensing and to expedite applications if they are reasonable and competent?

We invite you to meet with Beaver Trust and relevant signatories to discuss these questions. Together we can reconnect people with nature, incentivise them to relearn how to live with beavers and build climate resilience.

Thank you for the energy and resources you are committing to secure a brighter future for us all.

Yours sincerely,

James Wallace, for Beaver Trust, and the signatories below.

CC: Rt Hon Lord Zac Goldsmith, Minister of State, Minister for Pacific and Environment

Rt Hon Rebecca Pow MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State

Lord Gardiner of Kimble, Under Secretary of State for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity

Tamara Finkelstein, Permanent Secretary

Emma Howard Boyd, Chair, Environment Agency

THIS LETTER IS SIGNED BY THE FOLLOWING 70 ORGANISATIONS AND INDIVIDUALS (INCLUDING 7 ADDITIONAL SIGNATURES):

Environmental NGOs
Beccy Speight Chief Executive RSPB
Craig Bennett Chief Executive The Wildlife Trusts
Darren Moorcroft Chief Executive Woodland Trust
Dominic Jermey Chief Executive Zoological Society of London
Hilary McGrady Director-General National Trust
James Robinson Director of Conservation Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust
Jamie Peters Director of Campaigns Friends of the Earth
John Sauven Executive Director Greenpeace UK
Mark Rose Chief Executive Flora and Fauna International
Mike Barrett Executive Director of Science & Conservation WWF-UK
Environmental organisations
Alasdair Harris Executive Director Blue Ventures
Andrew Kerr Chairman Sustainable Eel Group
Andrew Simms Co-Founder New Weather Institute
Chris Price Chief Executive Rare Breeds Survival Trust
David Gasca-Tucker Principal Hydrologist Atkins Global
Dean Godson Director Policy Exchange
Derek Gow Director Derek Gow Consultancy
Fiona Mathews Chief Executive The Mammal Society
Frans Schepers Chief Executive Rewilding Europe
Gary Rumbold Director National FWAG Association
James Thornton Chief Executive ClientEarth
James Wallace Co-Director Beaver Trust
Jan Stannard Chief Executive Heal Rewilding
Jeremy Biggs Director Freshwater Habitats Trust
Jill Nelson Chief Executive People’s Trust for Endangered Species
Julie Williams Chief Executive Butterfly Conservation Trust
Lesley Dickie Chief Executive Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
Liz Hosken Director Gaia Foundation
Louise Ramsay Chair Scottish Wild Beaver Group
Martin Lines Chair Nature Friendly Farming Network
Nick Fox Founder Bevis Trust
Paul Lister Chief Executive The European Nature Trust
Peter Cairns Director Scotland the Big Picture
Philp Lymbery Chief Executive Compassion in World Farming
Rebecca Wrigley, Alastair Driver Chief Executive, Director Rewilding Britain
Roy Dennis Director Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation
Ruth Tingay Partner Wild Justice
Sara Lom Chief Executive The Tree Council
Shaun Spiers Director Green Alliance
Toby Aykroyd Coordinator Wild Europe Initiative
Tony Gent Chief Executive Amphibian and Reptile Conservation
Estates
Archie Ruggles-Brise Partner Spains Hall Estate
Charlie Burrell and Isabella Tree Owners Knepp Estate
John Mildmay-White Owner Flete Estate
Lady Elizabeth Ashcombe Owner Sudeley Castle Estate
Merlin Hanbury-Tennison Owner Cabilla Farm
Mish Kennaway (and Lucy Kennaway for future) Owner Escot Estate
Sam Galsworthy Owner Trewin Estate
The Duchess of Richmond Owner Goodwood House
The Duchess of Rutland Owner Belvoir Castle
The Duke of Somerset Owner Maiden Bradley Estate
The Marquess of Cholmondeley Owner Cholmondeley Estate
Thomas MacDonell Director of Conservation Wildland
Individuals
Axel Moehrenschlager Chair IUCN SSC Conservation Translocation Specialist Group IUCN Conservation Translocation Group
Charles Clover Executive Director Blue Marine Foundation
Craig Shuttleworth Research Fellow Bangor University
Deborah Meaden Environmentalist, entrepreneur Deborah Meaden
George Monbiot Guardian columnist, author, environmental activist Independent
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall Environmentalist, TV presenter Independent
Iolo Williams Naturalist, TV presenter, conservationist Independent
Jonathon Porritt Environmentalist, writer Independent
Sacha Dench UN Ambassador for Migratory Species United Nations
Additional signatures
Benedict Macdonald Writer (Rebirding); television producer Independent
David Stroud MBE Scientific Advisor Conservation Without Borders
Hugo Tagholm Chief Executive Surfers Against Sewage
Neil Garrick-Maidment Executive Director The Seahorse Trust
Revd Philip Mounstephen Bishop of Truro Diocese of Truro
Sarah Hogg Trustee Tale Valley Trust
Steve McIvor Chief Executive World Animal Protection

Contact us at info@beavertrust.org and visit www.beavertrust.org for more information and to arrange a trip to the Cornwall Beaver Project.

James Wallace Director Natural TrustJames Wallace

Director, Beaver Trust

E: james@beavertrust.org M: 07881 912192

© Beaver Trust 2020