FARMING organisations have expressed further concern following a formal application to introduce lynx into Kielder Forest.

The Lynx UK Trust has applied to Natural England (NE) for a licence to release six lynx, which would be fitted with satellite collars and their movements monitored for five years.

NE has said that any decision to grant a licence would be based on the impacts on affected communities, the wider environment and follow international guidelines.

In August last year, farming organisations called for urgent reassurance that any formal application would trigger a full and independent impact study and consultation.

Adam Bedford, NFU regional director, said: “A thorough, independent evaluation of any proposals put forward is what farmers in the local area expect.

“This is an area almost wholly dependent on sheep farming and times are tough. Any unnecessary additional pressure on these fragile businesses is simply unacceptable and the Government must respond accordingly.”

Responding to the application for a release licence, Phil Stocker, chief executive of the National Sheep Association (NSA), said they continued to have serious concerns.

He said: “NSA has been strongly opposed to what Lynx UK Trust is calling a pilot release since its inception, with serious concerns around the way the organisation conducted its consultation process to questions around whether current law would even allow such a release to take place.

“Clearly NSA is opposed to lynx because of the predatory threat the species poses to sheep, but our argument is far more wide reaching than that. Food security within an uncertain climate, protected species status and land use balance are subjects that need fully debating and pulling together.

“Any piecemeal sanctioning of small projects that are part of a much wider debate that has not yet been properly conducted would be irresponsible and inexcusable.”

However, the Trust says lynx are secretive feeding almost entirely on deer, of which there is an abundance in this country, and do not attack humans.

They live in forests and disappeared from this country about 1,300 years ago after being hunted to extinction for their fur.