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Call for compensation and a re-think on bringing back beavers

11 July 2023

The government should introduce and pay for a compensation scheme for farmers and other land managers to mitigate potential negative effects on livelihoods that result from the reintroduction of some species, a parliamentary select committee has recommended in a report.

The Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee also said species should not be reintroduced and given protected status – as has been the case with beavers – without a full management plan being in place.

The Committee launched its report, Species Reintroduction, at a specially convened press conference at the Great Yorkshire Show hosted by the Chair of the Committee, Sir Robert Goodwill MP, at 0930 on Tuesday July 11, 2023.

The report said a compensation scheme and urgent clarity from Government via a national strategy for reintroductions is the only way to alleviate the concerns of farmers and other land managers who may be impacted by high-risk reintroduction projects.

The Committee recognised that species reintroductions have the potential to:

  • help the government meet its biodiversity and species abundance goals;
  • benefit local communities (for example through improving the environment and encouraging tourism);
  • restore ecosystems; and
  • secure the future of organisms in the wild. 

The Committee heard that reintroductions need careful long-term plans to identify and manage potential adverse effects on local communities and other land users. In the UK, animals such as beavers and birds of prey have been in the spotlight as examples of controversial reintroductions, but the Committee also heard that many species—particularly amongst plants, fungi, and insects— pose little or no risk.

The Committee recommended that the government, in tandem with the England Species Reintroduction Taskforce and Stakeholder Forum, draws up a list which makes clear which species are potentially high risk (for example predators) and which are low risk (for example many types of fungi and insects). The list should make clear which species the government supports or does not support reintroducing to provide the clarity that is required for stakeholders to push forward with proposals.

However, the report said, drawing up a list would not be sufficient on its own. The government should also produce a clear long-term strategy on species reintroductions, which includes:

  • clear target dates for improving biodiversity; 
  • management plans – including an option to stop reintroductions if negative consequences outweigh the positive; and 
  • cross-government coordination. 

This strategy should be published by January 2024, the committee report said.

It said all potentially high-risk species reintroduction proposals should be subject to a national, independent impact assessment.

The Committee said the government should also, by June 2024, create an online ‘one stop shop’ species reintroduction hub. This hub should be supported by the government’s Species Reintroduction Taskforce and Stakeholder Forum so all interested parties can have their say.

The hub should contain guidance on good practice and regulatory information – and generally bring people together for the benefit of species and the communities where reintroductions could potentially take place.

Chair comment

The Chair of the Committee, Sir Robert Goodwill MP said:

“The current arrangements for reintroducing species are completely inadequate.

“At one end of the scale, many farmers and other land users would love to know which low risk plants, birds or maybe insects they could help to prosper – but we don’t yet have a government-approved list they can even look at.

“But at the higher-risk end, there was nowhere near enough planning or consultation from Government before the protected status of beavers was granted, for example. Beavers can cause problems for farmers by re-directing rivers and flooding agricultural land.

“The protected status of beavers should be reviewed – and there should be much wider and more transparent consultation on any other potentially risky species reintroductions".

Further information

Image credit: Tyler Allicock / UK Parliament