Beavers in Tayside and Argyll to receive legal protection

Roseanna Cunningham

Beavers in Tayside and Argyle are to be given legal protection to extend their range naturally except where they cause serious agricultural damage, The Courier reports.

The move by Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham has been welcomed by organisations including the John Muir Trust, Scottish Land & Estates, Scottish Natural Heritage and Rewiliding Britain.

But some farmers spoke out against the decision over the illegally released beavers.

Peter Grewar, chairman of Meigle Burn Group said beavers had caused serious damage to his land and that since June 2013 members of the group had removed more than 50 beaver dams.

He added: “If these dams had not been removed, large areas of productive arable land in Strathmore would have been flooded and reverted to swamps.

“It remains to be seen how damage will be limited in the future.”

However, Adrian Ivory, of Strathisla Farms at Meigle called the decision a “fair resolution”.

He said: “Farmers are going to have to learn to live with them.

“Some will be unhappy, but once we have seen the guidelines we will work within them. Everyone will knuckle down and get on with it.”

Vice-president of NFU Scotland, Rob Livesey, said the beavers should never have been released, adding: “NFU Scotland will work to ensure the detail and implementation of the regime is in line with its and the Environment Secretary’s ambitions.”

Ms Cunningham said: “Beavers promote biodiversity by creating new ponds and wetlands, which in turn provide valuable habitats for a wide range of other species. We want to realise these biodiversity benefits while limiting adverse impacts on farmers and other land users. This will require careful management.”

She added any further beaver-release would be treated as a criminal act, saying: “Swift action will be taken in such circumstances to prevent a repeat of the experience on Tayside.”

The John Muir Trust’s chief executive, Stuart Brooks, was delighted with the decision.

“Recent trials have shown that returning once-native species will enhance habitats for the benefit of people and for our natural world.

“We also welcome the measures to manage the impact of beavers for farmers and other landowners as a sensible and pragmatic approach,” he said.