A new national strategy has been developed to expand Scotland’s beaver population for decades to come.
Scotland’s Beaver Strategy 2022-2045 has involved more than 50 stakeholder organisations and represents one of the most ambitious approaches to managing and conserving the species.
Beavers create wetland habitats that help wildlife thrive and reduce flood risks.
The scheme aims to assess how to support communities to maximise the environmental benefits of beaver, while minimising the negative effects through appropriate management and mitigation.
The strategy highlights the need for ongoing research of the beaver population and its effects to improve management as the species expands.
It is estimated that Scotland’s beaver population is around 954 with 254 territories, NatureScot figures suggest.
The strategy was developed collaboratively under a process designed and led by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Conservation Planning Specialist Group (CPSG).
The cross-stakeholder team included representatives from NatureScot, the National Farmers Union of Scotland, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Scottish Land and Estates and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.
A new Scottish Beaver Advisory group will now work to bring the strategy forward.
Biodiversity minister Lorna Slater said: “Just 25 years ago most people would not have imagined that beavers would soon return as a member of our Scottish fauna.
“Now they are returning we have a responsibility to look after and value them – to learn to live alongside these remarkable animals.
“This strategy, and our work together to deliver it, is an important and welcome step towards this goal.
“I have no doubt of the positive impact that delivering it will have on the natural environment across the country, as beavers re-engineer and restore rivers and create wetlands.
“Recognising the concerns and requests made by stakeholders during the development of this strategy, the Scottish Government will support the expansion of beavers across the country, whilst ensuring land managers are supported to live alongside beavers.”
NatureScot’s chief executive Francesca Osowska said: “Our ambitious long-term vision is to see the beaver population expand across Scotland, co-existing successfully with communities.”
She added: “Beavers can play an important role in helping to restore biodiversity and respond to the climate emergency in Scotland and we aim to see further releases into new catchments in Scotland this year.
“At the same time, it’s essential that this happens in a way that takes into account the views of local communities living in these areas.
“NatureScot is committed to taking a lead role in implementing this strategy and much work is already under way, including mapping to prioritise suitable catchments, and conversations with a range of individuals and organisations to discuss possible new areas for beavers.
“Alongside this, we will continue to provide advice and support for managing and mitigating beaver impacts.”
Sarah Robinson, director of conservation at the Scottish Wildlife Trust, said: “Biodiversity is declining at a faster rate now than at any time in human history. Beavers provide a nature-based solution to tackling the growing crisis.
“The national strategy sets out how to help beavers become established throughout Scotland’s lochs, burns and rivers, and the many ways that both people and wildlife will benefit from their presence. We need to act urgently to implement this forward-looking strategy.”
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