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Farmers are calling for a compensation scheme if beavers damage their land, following the Scottish Government’s announcement to expand the beaver population.
The Scottish Government has announced it ‘will actively support the expansion of the beaver population, promoting translocation, which involves safely trapping and moving beavers to a more suitable area.
‘This will reduce or avoid negative impacts and help establish beaver presence in areas of Scotland outside their current range, beyond where natural expansion would be expected to reach in the short term.’
Biodiversity Minister Lorna Slater said: ‘Beavers were driven to extinction in Scotland but have now become an established part of our environment in some areas following their re-introduction.
‘Restoring this lost species is important in its own right, but beavers will also contribute to restoring Scotland’s natural environment as they create wetland habitats that support a range of species. Their dams can also help filter sediment from watercourses and mitigate flooding.’
The National Farmers Union (NFU) in Scotland was ‘disappointed’ by the move, arguing it ‘could undermine our members’ ability to produce healthy, sustainable food and preserve our historical features such as floodbanks’.
NFU Scotland president Martin Kennedy said: ‘NFU Scotland believes in the natural expansion of the growing beaver population in Scotland, rather than the need for translocation.
‘The NatureScot survey results from earlier this year showed a significant and accelerating increase in beaver numbers and territories – from 114 territories in 2017 to 251 territories in 2020.
‘These results provide unequivocal evidence of beavers in Scotland being a conservation and re-introduction success story, without the need for translocation, within a management framework that operated in the interests of beavers and wider biodiversity, whilst limiting the damage to valuable agricultural land.
‘It is important we sensitively manage wildlife to benefit and improve our biodiversity in balance with our need to produce food and keep the nation fed. Beavers, in the wrong areas, are proven to cause significant and costly agricultural damage.
‘In light of this announcement, the Scottish Government must ensure that a fully funded standalone mitigation scheme can be accessed by everyone who wishes to prevent future beaver damage on their land, alongside a fully funded compensation scheme for those who have been adversely affected.’
Chief executive of rewilding campaign group Trees for Life, Steve Micklewright, said: ‘This is a rewilding win for Scotland’s wildlife, climate and farmers. After almost half a millennium, the country is set to welcome beavers back properly at last.
‘Allowing these habitat-creating, biodiversity-boosting, flood-preventing animals to be relocated across Scotland – to where they are needed and wanted, away from prime agricultural land, and in a way that works for farmers – offers hope for tackling the nature and climate emergencies.’
In November, a second site for re-introducing beavers was announced by NatureScot – the first new one since beavers were brought to Knapdale in Argyll.
The new site is in the Forth catchment area, northeast of Doune at Argaty, on the edge of the current range for beavers in Scotland.
The protected species licence will allow beavers to be trapped and taken from areas where they are causing serious agricultural damage for farmers and where mitigation measures have not been successful or are not possible.