The government has announced that English farmers will be allowed to cut down beavers if they threaten their crops.
Environmentalists have opposed the decision, saying the animals are a “farmers’ ally” that helps conserve water during periods of drought and are an endangered species that should be cherished. Pools disappeared in the UK 400 years ago after being hunted for fur, but in recent years they have been reintroduced to England and Scotland.
After wetlands were discovered on a river otter in Devon in 2013, the government allowed them to stay to test their impact on fish stocks and local landowners.
A 2019 study found that beavers improved biodiversity in the area and increased fish populations. Since then, the wheels have been driven so that beavers are recognized as a local English species and therefore protected from harm. From October 1, beavers in England will enjoy increased protection, paving the way for their re-colonization of the country’s waterways.
However, until now, it was not known whether farmers and landowners could finish beavers instead of simply removing them, which could lead to the felling of trees or the overflow of farmland. Government guidelines released over the weekend suggest “passed away control” could be used as a last resort.
Some farmers have criticised plans to create beaver shelters without consulting on their control.
Minette Butters, president of the United Nations Foundation, recently said, “Given the obvious impact beavers can have on agricultural lands, having a clear management plan after consulting farmers was the least the government had to do before this law was passed.”
Farmer Derek Gow, who raises beavers for relocation projects on his Devon farm, said he disagreed with the new policy.
He told the observer: “finishing them is totally and completely wrong. Beavers change landscapes for the better. They help during periods of drought and slow down the current during periods of overflow. We should value beavers for all they offer and take care of them where they help the earth. We must not finish the Beaver.
He added that, in most matters, farmers’ concerns about beavers were unfounded. “Beavers can only present a problem in highly drained wetlands, which are used with complex systems that are very limited in terms of water drainage. We have been growing near water for too long: the biggest pollutant of all is agriculture; pesticides, bacteria and chemicals move directly into the water, causing damage. Beavers that filter out these types of pollutants really help agriculture….”
James Wallace, former CEO of the Beaver Trust, who now works for the charity River Action, said animals should be seen as a help, not a hindrance to farming.
He said: “Farmers should be supported to live close to beavers, including a management hierarchy that starts with education, then with practical solutions such as protecting trees or plants or removing dams, then with relocation when problems arise in areas of high peril to infrastructure, such as dykes. and finally, deadly control when all else fails.
“finishing the beavers should be the last thing we think about, as we encourage people to get them back, but if necessary, it should be done by a licensed professional, and only after the evidence shows the need to do it. The months of drought and devastating pollution from agriculture and sewage have reminded us that we need nature’s help so that people can thrive.
“Beavers can help bring life back to our degraded and polluted lands without reducing food production. Indeed, beavers and other natural solutions, such as paying farmers for river buffers, are essential to ensure a sustainable future of crops and the conservation of the UK’s rivers….”
A UNF spokesman said: “Although the government is publishing more information about beaver management and licensing in England, the UNF is disappointed that this has been done without wider consultation with farmers and landowners.
“We want the government to work more with farmers and landowners before moving to a national approach to releasing beavers from the wild.
“Farmers remain committed to food production in the country 24/7 and will turn to the government fairly to get the right tools and support to find a way to deal with the situation that could affect their business and food production.”