The Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) has announced that beavers will be reintroduced to the park after more than four centuries of being extinct in the area. The decision follows a five-year trial and a public consultation that showed positive impacts of the beaver population on the local environment and wildlife.
Beavers as nature’s engineers
Beavers are semi-aquatic rodents that build dams and lodges in rivers and streams. They are considered as nature’s engineers because they can create and modify habitats for themselves and other species. Beavers can help restore wetlands, improve water quality, reduce flooding, increase biodiversity and store carbon.
The CNPA has been working with various partners and land managers to develop a proposal to translocate beavers from the Tay catchment, where they have been living since the 2000s, to the upper Spey catchment, where there is suitable habitat for them. The release sites are at Rothiemurchus, Wildland Cairngorms and RSPB Scotland Insh Marshes.
Public engagement and licence application
The CNPA has conducted a series of informal and formal public engagement events, called Beaver Blethers, to provide information, dispel myths and identify concerns about the reintroduction project. The feedback from the public has been mostly supportive, with some reservations from farmers, landowners and fishery interests.
The CNPA has also prepared a management plan that outlines the solutions to minimise or avoid any unacceptable impacts of beavers on protected or valuable habitats, such as agricultural land, infrastructure and fish migration. The plan also includes a monitoring and evaluation framework to assess the ecological and socio-economic effects of the beaver population.
The CNPA has submitted a licence application to NatureScot, the statutory body responsible for the conservation and enhancement of Scotland’s natural heritage. NatureScot will review the application and make a decision based on the scientific evidence and the public opinion. If the licence is granted, the CNPA plans to release the first beaver families in the park in 2024.
Celebrating the return of a lost species
The CNPA and its partners have expressed their excitement and optimism about the return of beavers to the Cairngorms National Park. They believe that beavers will enrich the park’s natural and cultural heritage, and provide benefits for the local communities and visitors.
Dr Sarah Henshall, head of conservation at the CNPA, said: “We are delighted to have reached this milestone in our journey to bring beavers back to the Cairngorms National Park. Beavers are a keystone species that can play a vital role in restoring and enhancing our ecosystems. We are confident that our proposal is robust, evidence-based and widely supported, and we hope that NatureScot will approve our licence application. We look forward to welcoming beavers to the park and celebrating their contribution to our natural and cultural heritage.”