An Ottery St Mary representative has urged the Government to reintroduce beavers across England – after a trailblazing trial saw the animals thrive in East Devon.
Councillor Jess Bailey has responded to a landmark Whitehall consultation on whether the creatures should be allowed back into the wild nationwide.
A five-year trial on the River Otter was hailed a ‘brilliant success’ by Natural England.
Cllr Bailey has written to colleagues with responsibility for the environment on the county and district authorities and called on them to ‘respond positively’ to Defra’s deiberations.
The independent, who represents the Ottery Valley ward on Devon County Council and is ward member for West Hill and Aylesbeare at district level, said: “Having a wild community of beavers on the River Otter has been a wonderful experience.
“Very many local people, as well as from far afield, have been thrilled to have been able to see wild beavers going about their business, and also producing and raising young.
“In addition, the beavers have produced considerable environmental benefits and reduced flood risk.
“I shall be strongly urging the Government to allow the reintroduction of beavers across England.”
The Gorvernment’s 12-week consultation was launched on August 25.
It follows a successful reintroduction of beavers on the River Otter – the country’s first official new breeding colony in 400 years.
And, over five years, it was found the animals brought a wealth of benefits to the local area and ecology.
These included enhancing the environment at a local wildlife site, creating wetland habitat, and reducing flood risk for housing downstream.
Chair of Natural England Tony Juniper said: “The launch of Defra’s consultation marks an important and positive moment for the future of these wonderful animals in England.
“Beavers are not only fascinating creatures in their own right, but are also ecosystem engineers that will play a key role in restoring and linking habitats, in the process bringing many environmental benefits, like we have seen in the highly successful River Otter trial in Devon – hugely positive transformations, including the creation of wetland habitat, improving water quality and smoothing flood peaks.
“I encourage everyone to respond, so that the way we shape the future of wild Beavers reflects as many perspectives as possible.”
Secretary of State George Eustice hailed the consultation as a ‘significant milestone for the reintroduction of beavers in the wild’.
He added: “We are committed to providing opportunities to reintroduce formerly native species, such as beavers, where the benefits for the environment, people and the economy are clear.
“But we also understand that there are implications for landowners, so we are taking a cautious approach to ensure that all potential impacts are carefully considered.”
Under the Government’s proposals, applications for licences to release beavers into the wild would need to meet certain criteria.
These would include demonstrating positive stakeholder engagement and local buy-in and proof that a comprehensive assessment has been undertaken of the impacts on surrounding land, the water environment, infrastructures, habitats, and protected species.
Projects must also ensure that support for landowners and river users is put in place.