Farmers and landowners have joined forces to help a Scottish Government agency defend itself for handing out licences to kill wild beavers, according to The Ferret investigative journalism bureau..
The National Farmers Union Scotland wrote to members on 7 April to ask for their backing in raising £100,000, jointly with Scottish Land and Estates.
Local rivers such as the Endrick, the Fruin and even the Leven could be affected if the beavers are allowed to flourish.
Journalist Karin Goodwin reports that the union was asking for funds to oppose a judicial review alleging that NatureScot, formerly known as Scottish Natural Heritage, has been breaking the law by the way it issues lethal beaver control licences. The case being brought by re-wilding charity, Trees for Life, and is due to be heard in court later this year.
The letter – published in the Raptor Prosecution UK blog – claims that if Trees for Life wins the judicial review, along with “uninformed pressure” from conservationists, it may set a precedent for the “management” of other “increasingly problematic” species such as sea eagles, badgers, geese and ravens.
Due to the “enormity” of the “unintended consequences” NFUS and Scottish Land and Estates requested members contribute to pay for a lawyer and QC to present “hard evidence” which it claims is not understood by Trees for Life.
NFUS is committed to donating £75,000, with the remainder coming from Scottish Land & Estates.
Beavers have been a protected species in Scotland from May last year, when the now retired SNP SNP Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham introduced the the long-awaited and controversial move – opposed by many farmers.
This followed months of extensive wrangling over how their numbers should be managed.
Farming leaders have raised concerns about the damage caused to agricultural land from their dam-building.
Ms Cunningham told Radio Scotland’s Out of Doors programme: “It is what people have been waiting for, it is what we said we were going to do.
“I do appreciate that for a lot of people it seems to have taken a very long time but these things do. You don’t just snap your fingers and do it overnight.”
Beavers have been extinct in Scotland for 400 years but were illegally released into the wild in Tayside several years ago.
They are regarded as an enemy to farmers because of their dam-building which has led to fields being flooded and crops ruined.
One count found the population had tripled over six years to 430 beavers in more than 100 active territories.
The technical process for adding them to the list of protected species has now been started.
Roseanna Cunningham, pictured right, said beavers had both a positive and negative impact on the environment
From May it became an offence to kill, injure or capture the animals. The Scottish Wildlife Trust became increasingly uneasy at the lack of protection for beavers while a final decision was awaited.
They reported at the time that one had been found dead on a wildlife reserve. They believe it had died from an infection after being shot in the chest.
Protection and mitigation measures for farmers were to be be “extensive” according to the environment secretary.
She added: “I think most farmers realised pretty much a couple of years ago that this was going to happen.
“There will be control measures. We are looking at and talking to them about extensive potential mitigation measures.
“Beavers have a great impact on our environment, they are very good for biodiversity, but to pretend that there aren’t some other issues, some more negative impacts, would be to be blind to the truth.”
- The full investigative report can be found at The Ferret.