Latest beaver release part of "wider approach to enhancing biodiversity" - Michael Gove

Beavers will be released in the Forest of Dean in the new year with official approval, while new official guidance will guide such plans in future.

Image: Tomasz Chmielewski (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Image: Tomasz Chmielewski (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Two adult beavers and two kits will be released into a 6.5-hectare enclosure near Lydbrook, west Gloucestershire, in what officials say could be the first of many such schemes.

Defra secretary Michael Gove said: "The beaver has a special place in English heritage and the Forest of Dean proposal is a fantastic opportunity to help bring this iconic species back to the countryside 400 years after it was driven to extinction.

"The project is an example of the wider approach we are taking to enhance biodiversity, become the first generation to leave the environment in a better state for future generations and deliver on our plans for a Green Brexit."

Gove will visit a similar scheme run by the Devon Wildlife Trust later this month, where he will see first-hand the new dams, pools and other dramatic changes that have resulted from releasing two beavers on a 200-metre stretch of waterway.

Other controlled releases of beavers have taken place at Flagham Fen south of Cirencester, as well as in Kent and Lancashire, while unfenced populations have been established in Argyll and Perthshire, and may soon also be in Wales.

Forestry Commission deputy surveyor for the Forest of Dean Kevin Stannard said: "We will continue our detailed planning including designing a robust fence to keep the beaver enclosed; securing healthy, disease-free beaver and collecting data from the monitoring of the water flow in the brook. We will continue to give updates as the project develops."

The Forestry Commission is funding the project and will closely monitor the ecology and hydrology of the scheme, to understand its impacts and benefits to the local environment.

Natural England said it will consider further applications for possible trial releases on a case by case basis, in line with revised guidance published today.

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