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Stunned farmers encouraged to ‘give agricultural land over to beavers’

A suggestion farmers should be encouraged to give over land to beavers has been greeted with disbelief by farmers in Strathmore.

They have been struggling to live with the consequences of illegal releases of the animals over the last 10 years.

 

The population of beavers in the Tay catchment has soared, with most estimates putting the population at more than 1,000.

 

Clearing of dams to keep vital waterways clear is now a regular task in an area famed for its agricultural productivity.

 

University of Sussex scientist Prof Fiona Mathews, based nearly 500 miles from the actual problem, has suggested post-Brexit reform of agricultural subsidies will encourage farmers to give up land to set aside so it can be used for beavers to use their ‘extraordinary engineering skills’ to slow the flow of water through river catchments.

 

Prof Mathews cited the example the ‘huge benefit’ just two beavers in North Devon had within a year, with their network of dams creating complex wetland ecosystems.


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She added: “There are examples in Germany where beavers have been allowed to restore a network of wetlands in the middle of a quite intensively farmed landscape.

 

“We should be exploring whether farmers could be paid to allow beavers to live on their land to give us all benefits in terms of flood control, instead of putting all their fields into agricultural production.”

 

She proposed ‘soft solutions’, such as planting trees and managing farmland in ways which encouraged water to be absorbed into soil rather than running straight off into rivers.

One Perthshire farmer, who asked not to be named, described the suggestions as ‘complete nonsense’, saying recently planted trees had been quickly felled by beavers while carefully built watercourses, which had served their purpose for 200 years or more, had been wrecked.

 

Adrian Ivory, Strathisla Farms, Meigle, added: “My problem with Prof Mathews’s view is she is speaking about taking land out of production just as we are being encouraged to grow for food. The two are incompatible.

 

“I am also surprised on-one is commenting about the amount of soil erosion caused by beavers as the river banks collapse.”

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