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Beavers re-introduction to Ennerdale

LATEST: 2024...Plans for beaver re-introduction put on hold by Forest England. More information here.

Local community members in the Ennerdale area have said Forestry England is being too hasty in its plans to introduce the European beaver into the Ennerdale valley. Beavers vanished from UK and Europe in the 16th century but in recent years small free-living colonies have been re-introduced in Devon and Scotland.

Forestry England, the state backed owners of vast swathes of largely coniferous forests, plans to erect beaver proof fencing and establish a trial colony of the beavers in upper Ennerdale. If they judge the trial a success then the beavers would be allowed to become endemic in the entire valley and then the whole of West Cumbria. There is also speculation that a mountaineering and schools pursuits centre charity might be turned into a visitor centre.

At a public meeting in April villagers faced the Forestry England area director, Kevin May, with a barrage of concerns. Now community members have rejected a plan by FE to hold only a web based 'consultation exercise' to justify their beaver plans. The local voices claim there is "Totally inadequate public engagement on species introduction (beavers) which could impact the whole of the district." european beaver ennerdale

Members of the Ennerdale community state: "If this introduction goes ahead it will be the largest licensed beaver introduction ever carried out in England. It should therefore be afforded the time and thorough consideration by the affected communities to maximise the chances of success and not be rushed to a conclusion” "Community members also have concerns about the introduction strategy proposed on Wild Ennerdale’s website to introduce beaver family groups in a partial enclosure in the upper valley east of Ennerdale Water and after that commence the 3 to 5 year public engagement period." "They are aware of the published history of beaver escapes and reservations regarding the use of enclosures expressed among others by Natural England and in the DEFRA consultation responses recently published. From February 2021 it has actually been Natural England’s declared policy that they will no longer issue licences for partially fenced enclosures. They believe that for a number of reasons it will not be possible for Forestry England to demonstrate there will be no un-recovered escapes of beavers from the partial enclosure or that a full recovery exit plan can be assured if the trial is terminated. They therefore ask on what basis and evidence Forestry England are continuing with this approach. "We are very concerned with the proposal Forestry England are proposing to launch this trial and defer full public engagement until after beavers are released into the partial enclosure."

"Fast forward to this October. Since the April public meeting no other discussions have taken place with the community about the beaver consultation process. A massive beaver fence has appeared alongside the Irish Bridge turning once unspoilt views into a safari park boundary. They have also commenced recruitment for a project officer for the ‘Ennerdale Beaver reintroduction project.’ Objectors are also concerned that the Low Gillerthwaite outdoor pursuits charity may be turned into a Beavers visitor centre. The charity have been driven to taking legal action to defend their lease position.  Commenting on the concerns Jonny Winter, North West Marketing Manger for Forestry England stated: “We are currently in early discussions regarding the potential to trial beaver reintroduction in the valley. Beyond the engagement work we’ve already undertaken which included drop-in sessions, stakeholder visits to the valley, online conversations, newsletters and more, we have committed to a formal open consultation process (online) in support of the licence application. The licensing process for the species reintroduction is managed by Natural England on behalf of Government; they expect that the community is consulted on plans by the applicant. “In common with all land managers, Forestry England periodically reviews its leases to ensure our assets best meet our aims and deliver our strategy. The lease negotiations with the Low Gillerthwaite Trustees are currently ongoing and we are unable to share details of confidential business conversations, and at this moment that includes any future possible uses of the site. Forestry England is acutely aware of the need for the continuation of an educational resource in the valley. “We have offered the charity a new lease of up to five years, to enable it to review options and make appropriate plans. As we are in a legal process with the lease, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”

Information about Low Gillerthwaite can be found here. Low Gillerthwaite Field Centre (

Details of Forestry England's views on the benefits of re-introducing Beavers can be found here:

And also information

Cragg Fell above Ennerdale Water

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