Beavers set to return to the wild in England under Government plans

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Beavers are great for our landscapes - creating wetland habitat, improving water quality and smoothing flood peaks (C) Shutterstock

Plans to reintroduce beavers into the wild in England have been set out by the UK Government in a consultation launching today, as part of moves to help tackle the nature and climate emergencies.

The native animals are also to be given legal protection in England – which will make it an offence to capture, kill, disturb or injure beavers or damage their breeding sites or resting places without a licence from Natural England. 

Beavers are superb ecosystem engineers. They create wetlands that can significantly benefit other wildlife, absorb carbon dioxide, reduce flooding and improve water quality. The animals sometimes need managing if they cause localised damage to farmland.

The announcement is a step towards further reintroductions of native species to benefit the environment, people and the economy, and with proper engagement with stakeholders and local communities. 

A public consultation launched today will set out the criteria for allowing the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to take further steps for more reintroductions and establishing native beaver populations.

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

I encourage everyone to respond, so that the way we shape the future of wild Beavers reflects as many perspectives as possible” said Tony Juniper, Chair, Natural England.

Responses to the consultation will be used to inform decisions on the approach to further releases of beavers into the wild in England. A summary of responses will be published in early 2022.

“We welcome this long-awaited announcement confirming the intention of Government to licence the release of European Beavers into the wild in England”
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Rewilding Britain

Having been first consulted on Beaver reintroduction 36 years ago, read countless papers detailing evidence of the pros and cons and having been a member of the River Otter Beaver Trial steering group, it is clear to me that we already know enough about the criteria required for acceptable reintroduction proposals – but if we have to wait a few more months for the formal consultation to be completed, then so be it.” said Professor Alastair Driver, Director, Rewilding Britain.

We at Rewilding Britain define rewilding as the large-scale restoration of ecosystems to the point where nature is allowed to take care of itself. Rewilding involves reinstating natural processes and, where appropriate, missing species, allowing them to shape the landscape and the habitats within.”

Right at the top of the priority list of those formerly native species missing from the majority of our countryside, is the European beaver. These incredible animals are the beating heart of healthy river and wetland environments across Europe – but here in England, we have missed out on the huge biodiversity and ecosystem service benefits they bring for centuries.”

Rewilding is a crucial tool in the toolbox for tackling the nature and climate emergencies. Beavers can do much of that rewilding completely free of charge in river and wetland environments – so it really is a’no-brainer’ that with the right local community support and management strategies in place, we should return them back where they belong in our catchments. We’ve been through decades of talking about this. Now it’s time to act.”

Meet our rewilding superstar in detail

The Eurasian beaver is nature’s busy aquatic architect, a formidable tree feller, river changer and wetland creator

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