THE NFU has raised concerns about government plans to reintroduce beavers.

Defra has said that beavers will become a protected species and has recently consulted on approaches to their reintroduction, including managing the impacts of beavers.

The NFU says that they do not support the decision to protect the species and are concerned that the long-term impacts of beavers across catchments are not fully understood.

Under the Government’s proposals, applications for licences to release beavers into the wild would need to meet certain criteria, including demonstrating positive stakeholder engagement and local buy in, and proof that a comprehensive assessment has been undertaken of the impacts on surrounding land, the water environment, infrastructures, habitats, and protected species.

The planned legal protection makes it an offence to deliberately capture, kill, disturb or injure beavers, or damage breeding sites or resting places.

The NFU has urged Defra to use the utmost caution with where releases are to be permitted and for impacts across the whole catchment to be assessed first. More action is also needed to address illegal releases of beavers.

NFU environment forum chairman Richard Bramley said: “The potential impacts that beavers can have on agricultural land are of concern to the NFU – undermining riverbanks, damaging trees, impeding farmland drainage and causing low-lying fields to flood."

The NFU said in its response to the consultation that any beaver reintroduction must be strictly licensed by Natural England and stressed the importance that an approved licence must include a long-term management plan, developed with local farmers and backed with adequate funding.

Mr Bramley said: "Where there is a financial impact on a farm business, adequate compensation should also be made and an exit strategy in place should major issues occur.

“The government has made it clear that it will sanction reestablishment of beavers, so we will work with them, Natural England and all interested parties to ensure farmers are able to continue producing climate-friendly food, as well as care for the great British countryside and progress towards a net zero future.”