WWT and more than 60 leading conservation, wildlife and nature organisations have come together to support an appeal by Beaver Trust to speed up the restoration of beavers to Britain.
The Beaver Trust has sent a letter to Government asking them to commit to an ambitious strategy by the end of 2020 for beaver restoration across England. Their restoration is supported by Tony Juniper, The Chair of Natural England, and George Eustice MP, Secretary of State for the Environment, who recently announced in a statement that beavers are native to Britain.
The letter asks the Government to ensure there is no moratorium on the current, effective system of beaver licensing and to accelerate reasonable applications as part of their work to address the climate and ecological emergency.
James Robinson, Director of Conservation at WWT, said:
The loss of beavers from our natural environment has coincided with a dramatic decline of the UK’s wetlands – in England alone we have lost over 90% since pre-industrial times – and the reality is that this is no coincidence. Beavers actively ‘engineer’ the landscape they inhabit, creating wetlands and bringing a whole host of benefits to society in the process. Restoring beavers as a natural feature of the UK landscape would make a major contribution to biodiversity restoration targets and could also help tackle other important issues such as pollution and flooding problems.
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.
Beavers are nature’s builders, creating complex wetland mosaics along rivers. Wetlands help slow the flow of water and purify it of toxins. They also store water during droughts and help reduce the impact of flooding.
Beavers regenerate biodiversity by building food-rich habitats for a huge range of other wildlife.
Unlike Scotland and most of Europe, beavers are not protected as a native species in England and their recovery from extinction is slow.
Ben McCarthy, Head of Nature Conservation & Restoration Ecology at the National Trust, added:
After a decade since the first licensed reintroduction of beavers back into our rivers, there is now clear evidence that beavers benefit both nature and people. These native, ecosystem engineers provide effective nature based solutions to the current climate crisis by helping to slow the flow of flood waters as well as improving water quality and wildlife habitat. We are excited by the opportunities offered by them forming a natural part of our river systems again.
Emma Marsh, Director of RSPB England, said:
The RSPB is wholly supportive of licenced beaver reintroductions. Beavers are a keystone species with the ability to influence and restore natural processes to the landscape, for the benefit not just of birds and other wildlife, but in helping us manage water flow and ensuring our rivers are in good condition. We would love to see more of these very special creatures.
A decade of learning from living alongside beavers in Scotland, combined with the 5-year documented project on the River Otter in Devon demonstrate how the benefits of beavers far outweigh any drawbacks.
Nick Phillips, Head of Conservation Policy at Woodland Trust, said:
Over half of Britain’s woodland wildlife is in decline. Beavers could play a positive role in improving the condition of native woodland through helping to ‘coppice’ trees like willow, hazel, rowan and aspen. The regrowth provides varied woodland homes for a range of declining insects, plants and birds.
Public support for beavers from town and country is high and rising, with numerous media editorials backing their return.
The six 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 satisfied by the ecosystem engineering activities of the Eurasian beaver.
James Wallace, Director of Beaver Trust, said:
Beaver Trust and the letter signatories have offered the government their support developing policy changes and a national strategy for restoring beavers across our rivers. We are delighted to have helped mobilise and align so many NGOs, conservation groups and estates. We now encourage the public to back this urgent action.