The alternative blog on the reintroduction of the Beaver to Argyll, Scotland.
Wednesday, 4 November 2009
No Beaver News is rarely Good News
At the last ‘Stakeholder’ meeting on 21 August, I requested that more information was made available via the Beaver Project web site or blog. On the website there are Beaver Project Reports and minutes of the stakeholder meetings but you have to dig deep to find them. The latest ‘Breaking News’ headlined on the first page is dated 6 August. On the blog, recent entries have been about project members rather than the beavers. The information from the project is managed so that we only hear the 'good news'.
You would think that the discovery in September of one or two of the missing Creag Mhor beavers might have made it into ‘Breaking News’. It was front page news in the Argyllshire Advertiser but not worthy of a mention on the front page of the Beaver Project website. Over six weeks later, these ‘easily caught’ beavers remain at large, causing damage on private land. Failing to catch missing beavers is definitely not good news.
The only way to get reliable information is to get your wellies or waders on and check out the beaver release sites.
The Coille Bharr beavers have moved to the Dubh Loch. Even frequent walkers around Coille Bharr might not have noticed the shallow marshy loch on the other side of the path. You can’t miss it now as it extends into the woodland and across the path to where the beavers have dammed the outlet into Loch Coille Bharr. The flooding continues to expand with about 120 metres of path now impassable on foot and many trees now under water and likely to be killed by the flooding. A pipe inserted into the dam to lower water levels has been ineffective and the beavers continue to raise the level of the dam. This area is designated a Special Area of Conservation and is protected from human activitiy, but not, it would appear, from the effects of beaver activity.
Up at Loch Linne, the dam on the outflow burn has been removed. The water levels had flooded the fishing jetty but apart from that, it is hard to see why the flooding should be a cause for concern here where there are no paths to be flooded and not at Coille Bharr. It would be relatively easy to raise the level of the pier compared with the logistics of opening up the Coille Bharr walk. Loch Linne is also in the Special Area of Conservation but for some reason it is being treated as a little bit more special than Coille Bharr.
When you look at what two families of beavers have achieved in six months, it is clear that an expansion of beaver populations in Scotland will be problematic and costly. We are told that beavers will provide a 'free' land management service which is a little at odds with the current budget of £1.7 million.
It is difficult not to feel contempt for Mike Russell, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, and Scottish Natural Heritage et al over the intended beaver introduction. Not the same contempt that they have displayed for procedure during the risible consultation period and subsequently, I don’t have the right sort of cynicicm. If the opposite of the truth is a lie then between them, from Alec Salmond down, they have indulged themselves. SWT`s campaign of deliberate misinformation and evasion seemed to spur the other participants on. We learn from Mike Russell that “the people of Scotland” want this introduction, yet if you read the SNH survey you will discover that only 39 people, not even 39%, were in favour. Alec Salmond says that beaver were “highlighted” by SNH in their species action framework; not so, it merely appears on a list. Mike Russell said he was confident that SNH would give him unbiased advice! Is this the same SNH that spent over £83,000 trying to introduce beaver themselves? The same SNH that SWT says asked them to apply for the licence so that they wouldn’t appear to be involved? The same SNH that produced a report that said it was highly unlikely that a viable beaver population could exist in Scotland without human intervention. SWT boast that they will release them anywhere they can and then wash their hands of any responsibility thereafter. This from a charity supposedly protecting existing animals; I wonder just how honest they have been with their membership.
SNH has a list of invasive species, and more are arriving all the time, from Knotweed to American crayfish, Japanese shrimp to the New Zealand Flatworm, and let’s not forget the mink, the grey squirrel, and Sika Deer. They are big on reports because it looks like they are doing something, but action on the ground is a bit thin. So much more fun to connive with SWT to spend £2 million pounds on the introduction of another non-native life form. Mike Russell, parroting SWT, calls it a “charismatic” creature. It is certainly one way of describing a giant water rat famous for its destructive habits; in Europe hundreds of millions of euros are spent annually putting right the damage they cause to the infrastructure.
It’s worth remembering that SNH are the people who would rather slaughter hedgehogs on the Uists, because “they might get stressed” in a box on the ferry to the mainland. Now they have no qualms, moral or ethical, about trapping 40/50 beavers in Norway, transporting them in box to Scotland, quarantining them in questionably suitable security, trapping them again, putting them back in a box and taking them to Argyll. The release site in North Knapdale is designated SSSI and contains rare aquatic plants and other protected species such as, adders, newts, divers and dragonflies. It is an eco-system that has evolved over several hundred years without benefit of beaver and is a rich and diverse habitat. It was 4th on the SNH list of suitable beaver release sites, but presumably being on Forestry Commission land (themselves historically notorious for landscape abuse) it was the easiest option. Mike Russell, again parroting SWT, points to the creation of ponds and wetlands as one of the benefits of beaver, as these already exist, as he well knows, I wonder where he is referring to. All parties are keen to stress the species diversity advantages, without actually being able to be specific. No one has as yet revealed what it is that Argyll lacks that beaver will encourage. They also of course fail to point out that the existing species will be put at risk and that some will disappear altogether, but as there doesn’t appear to be a comprehensive species audit, we`ll never know. If at the end of the trial period the beaver are removed, will SWT and SNH be able to restore the ecosystem they have wantonly destroyed in the name of some very doubtful science?
If you or I were to pick the rare water lily or catch a newt, the full force of outraged environmental guardians would be brought to bear. So how is it that Mike Russell can get a giant rodent to do it and it’s all right? If this ill-conceived and pointless endeavour is successful, there will be a cost, financially and environmentally, a tab to be picked up by our children, who will no doubt wonder who the arrogant, self aggrandising perpetrators were, and why they were allowed to get away with it.
Open letter to papers and the Scottish Government
Dear Sir, It seems that it might be up to eight beaver that have died, certainly five died during their incarceration in a concrete floored shed during quarantine. They died to boost the ego of the former Environment Minister. They died as a consequence of lies told by Alec Salmond. They died because of Scottish Natural Heritage and political chicanery. They died because of the arrogance of the Scottish Wildlife Trust. They died because no one cared enough, not the opposition in Edinbrough, not the big businesses upon which they might deprade, nor the public, lulled and gulled by SWT’s pernicious propaganda. Presumably they are considered the broken eggs for the TWO AND A HALF MILLION pound eco-omelette being foisted on Argyll.
Now that so many have died, is the trial introduction still a valid endeavour? It has been admitted that the original number of beaver was insufficient for a proper trial, and that the five year trial period was not long enough for a proper study. So one does rather wonder how so many people got caught up in this fraudulent scheme. Because of the former minister’s ludicrous ambition to be known as the man who brought beaver to Scotland, no independent assessment was ever conducted. All the information, most of it of a blatant bias, has been generated by SWT and SNH. Should beaver become a problem after SWT’s Simon Milne has achieved his ambition to release them all over Scotland his solution is to issue hunting licences.
This whole ill starred enterprise is as ethically and morally bankrupt as the instigators who sponsor it. It was an act of despoliation to introduce a giant destructive rodent into a centuries old closed eco-system, which incidentally, already contained everything supposedly encouraged by beaver, except the hairy dragonfly. A TWO AND A HALF MILLION pound dragonfly needs to be bloody spectacular! It’s all there will be, that, and some dead trees.