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Call for one more 'beaver blether' with concerned farmers in strath

By Gavin Musgrove

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A decision is expected very soon on the return of beavers to Badenoch and Strathspey.
A decision is expected very soon on the return of beavers to Badenoch and Strathspey.

Cairngorms National Park Authority bosses are to meet with concerned farmers one more time to address concerns ahead of the expected imminent release of beavers into Badenoch and Strathspey.

Several members told the latest CNPA park board meeting in Grantown there were still qualms over the return of the species after an absence of four centuries.

Park officials had pointed to a ‘brilliant’ 550 plus responses to the public consultation which has taken place this year.

But they were told that there were still outstanding concerns especially amongst some local farmers and the impact beavers could have on flood banks.

Referring to local feedback, board member Russell Jones said: “The feeling is that there have been a lot of warm words and reassurances but there is nothing in writing.

“People are genuinely scared and worried that it is not in writing.

"Quite simply what I am asking for today is that we pause any release until there is a sit-down meeting with the Spey Farmers and Crofters and others who are not part of that group who are concerned about it; ask them in; chat it through and then put something in a legally binding document so that they can see for perpetuity what will happen litigation-wise.”

Board member John Kirk said: “The biggest worry in all of this is the £45m cut in agricultural flood money which has been nicked for other things.

“I can understand where the farmers are coming from. I’ve had guys so depressed on the phone who do not know whether there is a future for themselves or their families. It really has hit home hard what damage these animals can do.

“There is a lot of good work they can do – we saw that at South Clunes in a fenced-in area.”

He continued: “These flood banks protect us from the run of the mill floods we get every two or three months.”

He said October’s big flood had cost his farm business £20,000 of damage to fences, roads, clearing up debris and rubbish and reseeding. "It is £20,000 out of our pockets," he said.

“That £20,000 is a hard £20,000 to find I can assure you especially when are subsidies are being cut.”

Park board member Eleanor MacKintosh said: “There is real concern from farmers out there.

“I do not take away from the work that staff have done with the consultations – it has been great –but the message is still not sinking in with land managers.

“It is okay to pull out these brilliant numbers of 550 responses but we need to give close attention to the folk whose livelihoods are being affected. I support the call for a last-minute meeting to see if anything can be done to allay their fears.”

Park chief executive Grant Moir responded: “I am certainly happy to put into further writing (further assurances) that if the national schemes don’t cover these issues post 2026. That is our guarantee as the park authority – there is nothing we can do beyond that.

“This is well beyond what other places that have beavers have access to and we are doing this as the applicant.

"It is a choice as the park authority to make sure that people are reassured that if there is an issue that we deal with it.”

The park chief said he was happy to meet with the group again.

A final decision is expected from NatureScot very soon on the relocation of beavers to the strath. Three local sites have been indentified for their return to the wild locally – they are at the RSPB's Insh Marshes reserve, Rothiemurchus and on Wildland land owned by Danish billionaire Anders Povlsen.

Could the CNPA be left out of pocket?

CNPA park officials are confident that damage by beavers will be covered nationally by agricultural grants once reforms come in during 2026.

In the meantime, the Cairngorms National Park Authority will pick up any bills for damage by beavers where this can be proven.

Board member Bill Lobban asked what the financial risk was because the CNPA is ‘not a particularly large authority’.

Mr Moir said there has been two incidents in 15 years in Tayside where beavers were directly implicated in breaching flood banks and there are ‘1000-ish’ beavers in that region.

The park boss said: “We are going to be releasing two families to the (three) locations. The implications in the short term is extremely low and in 10 to 15 years there may be beavers in places where there are issues...

He pointed to hopes for the national mitigation scheme as part of the farming reformers in 2026, and said: “I think the risk to the CNPA in the short to medium term is very low’.

Park finance officers said it was difficult to quantify the impact on budget at this point in time but they were aware there could be a call on the authority’s resources in the coming years.

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