Bringing beavers back to the Cairngorms National Park
9th August 2023
Next steps could see beavers here by this Autumn
Beavers are a step closer to returning to the Cairngorms National Park with the formal public engagement process getting underway next week. Once completed, the Cairngorms National Park Authority – who are leading on the reintroduction project – will submit a licence application to return this lost species to the Park after an absence of more than 400 years.
The Park Authority is working closely with a range of partners and land managers on a carefully considered proposal to translocate beavers from the Tay catchment to the upper Spey catchment. The release sites are at Rothiemurchus, Wildland Cairngorms and RSPB Scotland Insh Marshes.
Beavers are considered ‘nature’s engineers’ with an incredible ability to rework, restore and re-naturalise the landscape, helping combat climate change and boost biodiversity. From coppicing riverside trees to damming smaller water courses, creating narrow canals and rich wetlands, beavers create the ideal habitat for wildlife to thrive, as well as slowing the flow of water which reduces flood risk downstream.
Following a series of informal ‘Beaver Blethers’ back in March, the Park Authority and partners are back out on the road to speak with residents, farmers, business-owners, fishery interests and other groups as part of the formal six week public engagement process, which runs from 14 August to 25 September. The information gathered at this second series of ‘Beaver Blethers’, will help inform the licence application to NatureScot.
The events will be taking place from 2pm to 7pm and are as follows:
- 17 August – Kincraig Hall, open to the general public
- 23 August – Nethybridge Hotel, open to fishing interests
- 30 August – Duke of Gordon Hotel, Kingussie, open to the agriculture sector as well as members of the public
- 7 September – Inverdruie House Tipi, Aviemore, open to local business interests
- 13 September – Grant Arms Hotel, Grantown-on-Spey, open to the general public
- 19 September – Aberlour Hotel, open to fishing interests as well as the general public
Dr Sarah Henshall, Head of Conservation at the Cairngorms National Park Authority said: “Working with land managers, we aim to release beaver families in three locations in the Upper Spey catchment. In collaboration with land managers and communities we then plan further releases within the catchment over the next few years to ensure there are enough for a viable population. Our beavers will be coming from the Tay Catchment and will be trapped under licence by The Beaver Trust. They will go through health checks in a zoo – and if we get the go ahead from NatureScot – they will then be transported to their release sites in the Cairngorms National Park soon after.
“We need to apply for a licence from NatureScot as beavers are a European Protected Species. To be successful in this application we need to show that there is enough suitable habitat for a self-sustaining population of beavers to live in the Park; that there are land managers willing to have the first beavers in the Park released on their land; that we have a Management Plan identifying any issues that beavers may cause and outlining solutions to minimise or avoid any unacceptable impacts to protected or valuable habitats; and that there is a majority of supportive public opinion. Over the next six weeks we’ll be hosting lots of opportunities for local communities to share their views in meetings, events, and an online survey.”
Three local land managers have come forward to be involved in the project. One of those is Rothiemurchus. James Grant for Rothiemurchus said: “Beavers have become re-established in Scotland, and they are modifying the landscape. We support this plan for the Upper Spey and are pleased that there may be a suitable site for an early reintroduction within Rothiemurchus Forest. We look forward to considering the views expressed in the formal engagement, and if it proceeds, working with the support and advice of the Park Authority and NatureScot to implement any mitigation.”
Wildland Limited is also set to host a family of beavers. Thomas MacDonell, Director of Conservation for Wildland Limited said: “Our habitat restoration work over the last 20 years has resulted in one of our sites being considered suitable as a beaver release site, this is a welcome recognition of our contribution to a healthier environment. We are looking forward to welcoming beavers to the Spey catchment as it is expected that they will bring many positive outcomes.
“Others may be less sure, perhaps they are concerned about potential negative outcomes for them, this is why this engagement process is extremely helpful. At Wildland Cairngorms we support both the relocation and the engagement.”
Furthermore, RSPB Scotland Insh Marshes was identified as being highly suitable for beavers. Karen Birkby, the Site Manager: said, “As part of our long-term vision for Insh Marshes – to improve the functioning of the river Spey and its floodplain for nature and people – we’ve been really keen to get beavers back. They are fantastic animals with the ability to provide many benefits to other wildlife and the nature reserve is really suitable for them. So we were delighted to offer it up as one of the initial release sites. We are looking forward to continuing discussions with our neighbours as part of the wider engagement and are hopeful that, by the end of next year, beavers will be making their new home here with all the benefits that will bring.”
Depending on the results of the engagement process, the first beaver family could be released in late Autumn of this year. Sandy Bremner, Convener of the Cairngorms National Park Authority Board, said: “Beavers will bring benefits to the Park’s natural environment and, in future, they could also provide an economic boost in the form of ecotourism.
“Where there are concerns, it is very important that they are aired. I would urge anyone with an interest in finding out more, or making their views known, to take part in the formal public engagement process. This is a highly significant moment for the Cairngorms National Park, with plans to return a lost species after 400 years.”
For more information or to make your views known, please go here: www.cairngorms.co.uk/beavers