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,
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:
- Will you commit to making policy decisions this year on producing a pragmatic and ambitious strategy for beaver reintroduction in England?
- 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.
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):
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
Director, Beaver Trust
E: firstname.lastname@example.org M: 07881 912192
© Beaver Trust 2020