River Otter beavers can stay!
A government review of the five-year reintroduction trial has concluded that beavers do more good than harm in our environment, so the River Otter beavers, thought to number around 50 individuals, can stay as a permanent keystone species in our local ecology.
Beavers were hunted to extinction in England 400 years ago, and this landmark decision by Defra marks the first legally sanctioned reintroduction of an extinct native mammal in England.
“Our rivers and wetlands really need beavers and this is brilliant news,” said Mark Elliot, who coordinated the trial for Devon Wildlife Trust.
Defra based its decision on the report by trial partners DWT, Clinton Devon Estates, University of Exeter and Derek Gow Associates. It found that reintroducing beavers had significant benefits for fish and other wildlife populations and diversity, water quality and flood management.
The Wildlife Trusts now hope this success will lead to a national strategy, perhaps involving subsidies to landowners who allow landscape engineering by beavers to create new wetlands. There should also be assistance for farmers whose agricultural income is adversely affected.
Environment minister Rebecca Pow told the BBC that under a new subsidy system after the UK leaves the EU, “those with land will be paid for delivering services, such as flood management and increased biodiversity….Using beavers in a wider catchment sense, farmers could be paid to have them on their land.”
Fairlynch has been closely following the River Otter Beaver Trial with an evolving exhibition in the Priscilla Hull Room.