Beavers re-introduction to Ennerdale
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."
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
Information about Low Gillerthwaite can be found here. Low Gillerthwaite
Field Centre (lgfc.org.uk)
Details of Forestry England's views on the benefits of re-introducing
Beavers can be found here: https://www.forestryengland.uk/blog/how-beavers-are-returning-englands-forests