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Farmers reassured over plans for beaver reintroduction in Badenoch and Strathspey

By Tom Ramage

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Has the dam between farmers and the beaver brigade been breached?

A belated ‘Beaver Blether’ on Tuesday certainly seems to have allayed serious concerns among the strath’s sceptics.

An advert for the post of ‘Beaver management officer’ with a salary of around £30,000 to help reintroduce the species next Spring appeared to have prompted the formation of a Spey Crofters and Farmers Group, insistent that nothing happened until a ‘fully costed mitigation framework’ was in place.

Beaver blether: a friendly meeting by the beaver pond this week
Beaver blether: a friendly meeting by the beaver pond this week

“We cannot believe this is still going ahead without addressing our fears,” Ruaridh Ormiston, at Kingussie, told the Strathy.

But after Tuesday’s blether at Kirkhill, just west of Inverness, the mood was decidedly different.

“A beaver problem shared is a beaver problem halved, or at least reduced an awful lot,” he said.

“It was a great meeting today to discuss the imminent release in the Spey catchment co-ordinated by the Cairngorms National Park Authority – I personally have asked for my own pair.”

A series of ‘Beaver Blethers’ throughout the strath was aimed at different sections of society.

The Kincraig launch was effective in merely explaining to the public just what the project was about and why the beaver had been gone from the strath for the last four centuries.

There followed sessions in Kingussie, Grantown, Nethy Bridge and Laggan where various business and environmental interests were addressed. Kingussie drew comments from agricultural interests, notably concerns about flood banks from damage and breaches from beaver burrows.

A proper written framework of support and payment assistance to land managers was called for, to cover any damage or remedial work as a result of the introduction, or reduction in land value from wetting and to affirm just where beavers would not be permitted.

Dam good read: there was plenty of literature for the group to read on Tuesday
Dam good read: there was plenty of literature for the group to read on Tuesday

Concerns included who would remove the problematic dams? Why should the farmers have to do the job, some asked. What compensation would there be to damage to trees and other natural features?

Mr Ormiston said: “When I asked NatureScot who’d pay for any repairs they simply said ‘Not us, because we have no money’.

Local farmers were calling for an exclusion zone on the flood plain at Kingussie - Dellmore, Dell Beag, Pitmain – to stop drainage ditches, channels and canals from being blocked.

But by Tuesday night the message was mellowing.

As group spokesman, Mr Ormiston told the Strathy: “We were the guests of the CNPA and the Swift family – Chris, Fred and Sofi of South Clunes Farm at Kirkhill, where they have had beavers for 15 years now in a lovely wee upland glen.

“We enjoyed walking round the beavers and hearing all their stories and seeing their work making dams, etc.

“They are fantastic engineers and we saw no evidence of burrows.

“We were grateful to Grant Moir, Andy Ford, Sally Mackenzie and Jonathan Willet, all of the CNPA, for taking us around and providing lunch and coffee at the South Clunes BBQ Hut overlooking the beaver pond.

“But even more, we were so happy they listened to all our concerns and worries and offered guaranteed mitigation which put everyone much more at ease about the whole thing, especially when it is committed to writing.

“As expected we learnt a lot more about beavers on the visit and as a group I think we are a lot less fearful of the introduction for now.”

Three local sites have been identified for the reintroductions – Rothiemurchus, Insh Marshes and on Wildland land.

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