Tayside farmers have shared their concerns about the impact of beaver populations in the region during a visit by the Scottish Government Minister for Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform, Dr Aileen McLeod MSP.
Dr McLeod travelled to meet potato farmer Peter Grewar at East Ardler Farm and beef and arable farmer Adrian Ivory at Strathisla Farms, both near Meigle, in a visit organised by Scottish Land & Estates.
On a walk of the Camno and Baikie burns, the Minister saw how reliant the low lying farmland around Meigle is on field drainage systems and the problems that can occur if drainage channels such as the burns become blocked by beaver dams. The Minister also looked at bank erosion and tree gnawing occurring where beaver are present.
The Minister will receive a report from Scottish Natural Heritage in May outlining options for the future of the beaver population in Scotland, after which a decision will be taken as to whether they will stay in Scotland and, if so, what their status in terms of protection and management will be.
On her visit, the Minister was joined by members of the Tayside Beaver Study Group, including Scottish Land & Estates, the NFU Scotland, Scottish Wildlife Trust, The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, The Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board, ConFor and Scottish Natural Heritage. The Group have been carrying out a study looking at the beavers’ impact on land in Tayside along with their health and genetic diversity.
Dr Aileen McLeod. Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform said: “Today I had the opportunity to see the impact of beavers in the local area and to hear about mitigation and management methods. The work of the Tay Beaver Study Group which brought together a wide range of interested parties to examine the impact of beavers and implications for management locally has provided valuable information.
“I am awaiting advice from Scottish Natural Heritage which will set out the impact of beavers, including the benefits to biodiversity and economic benefits through tourism, provided by the presence of beavers in Scotland.”
Scottish Land & Estates member, Adrian Ivory - who recently appeared on the BBC’s The One Show to discuss the problems he is experiencing - said: “There may be parts of Scotland where beaver can exist without too many problems, but that is not the case on low lying agricultural ground where the increasing water levels they create is a concern. Experience from other parts of Europe tells us that beaver come into conflict with human activity in a number of different ways and they have to be robustly managed to avoid this getting out of hand.”
Anne Gray, Policy Officer with Scottish Land & Estates, added: “We are very pleased that the Minister has taken the time to come to Tayside. Scottish Land & Estates has reservations about the proposed reintroduction of beaver to Scotland and it has been helpful to raise those concerns with her. As we’ve seen today they create a range of issues for farming and other land management and it is not yet clear how this will be mitigated, managed or compensated.”