A legal challenge by Trees for Life to the Scottish government’s beaver killing policy will be heard by the Court of Session in Edinburgh on Thursday 3 June and Friday 4 June.
Trees for Life says the government’s nature agency NatureScott is breaking the law by failing to make the killing of protected species a last resort when management requires it.
The rewilding charity says NatureScot should consider moving the beavers to areas of Scotland where they will be welcomed and can help promote biodiversity, rather than when they harm local farming interests So issue a license to kill them.
The case aims to ensure a secure future for the beavers, which could help tackle the nature and climate crisis as their dams create nature-rich and flood-reducing wetlands. Trees for Life also states that any management change must be practical and effective to protect the interests of farmers.
Steve Micklewright, CEO of Trees for Life, said: ‘A decision in our favor could turn the fortunes of Scotland’s wild beavers. But whatever the legal consequences, the case is highlighting clear discrepancies in the government’s approach to protecting this still fragile native species – and why a more nature-friendly, climate-friendly and farmer-friendly approach is needed. ‘
The government announced in 2019 to legally protect beavers. But NatureScott has since issued dozens of kill licenses that say the beavers are harming farmland—even though laws on protected species require management to have the least possible impact on their conservation status.
Given the rationale for legal protection of beavers and adopting a precautionary approach to their management, Trees for Life is making a strong case that all viable non-lethal alternatives to killing should be explored so that killing beavers is truly a last resort. .
Trees for Life agrees with NatureScott that beaver impacts sometimes need to be managed, but believes that NatureScott considers trapping and relocating beavers as an alternative to lethal control of beavers when issuing a license. is legally obliged to consider – some argues NatureScott.
The view of the court on these arguments will be one of the key points of judicial review. It is believed that the summer may end before the court’s decision comes.
Lawyer Adam Eagle, chief executive officer of the Rewilding charity, a Lifescape Project legal expert leading the litigation with Trees for Life, said: ‘We have studied hundreds of pages of material obtained from NatureScott through freedom of information requests, and we ‘ has compiled strong arguments that current beaver licensing practices violate Scottish Housing Regulations on several fronts.’
A judicial review ruling that lethal control should only be a real last resort could allow conservationists and others, with appropriate community engagement, to identify suitable sites across Scotland where beavers can be relocated and their could be welcomed – promoting biodiversity, creating opportunities for wildlife tourism, and preventing potential damage to agricultural land elsewhere.
Currently the Scottish Government is blocking such relocation, even though NatureScot has identified more than 100,000 hectares of suitable habitat. This teeside is limiting options for farmers whose land or crops are damaged by beavers, often putting them in a position to shoot much-loved animals.
The public crowdfunding of Trees for Life raised over £60,000 to cover the legal costs of the judicial review.
A judicial review – a court review of the decisions and actions of official decision makers to ensure that they are valid – can only proceed if there is a recognized legal basis and if the applicant has a legal authority, called ‘ known as ‘standing’, a challenge to bring.
Trees for Life is dedicated to rejuvenating the Scottish Highlands. See treeforlife.org.uk.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of knews.uk and knews.uk does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.