Category Archives: Environmental

News and current work being carried out that could potentially damage the environment and or planet.

#Fracking trespass law changes move forward despite huge public opposition #TrespassLaw

Ministers reject 40,000 objections to allow fracking below homes without owners’ permission.

by Damian Carrington.
Prime minister David Cameron during a guided tour of the IGas shale drilling plant near Gainsborough, Lincolnshire.Prime minister David Cameron during a guided tour of the IGas shale drilling plant near Gainsborough, Lincolnshire. Photograph: Lindsey Parnaby/PA

Fracking will take place below Britons’ homes without their permission after ministers rejected 40,000 objections to controversial changes  to trespass laws.

The UK government argued that the current ability for people to block shale gas development under their property would lead to significant delays and that the legal process by which companies can force fracking plans through was costly, time-consuming and disproportionate.

There were a total of 40,647 responses to a consultation on the move to give oil and gas companies underground access without needing to seek landowners’ permission, with 99% opposing the legal changes. Setting aside the 28,821 responses submitted via two NGO campaigns, 92% of the remaining responses objected to the proposals.

The government response to the consultation, published online on the eve of the parliamentary vote on military strikes against Islamic militants in Iraq, concluded: “Having carefully considered the consultation responses, we believe that the proposed policy remains the right approach to underground access and that no issues have been identified that would mean that our overall policy approach is not the best available solution.”

New laws will now be passed giving automatic access for gas and oil development below 300m and a notification and compensation scheme will be run by the industry on a voluntary basis.

Should fracking trespass laws be changed?

Responses to the question ‘should the government legislate to provide underground access to gas, oil and geothermal developers below 300 metres?’
UK Ministers rejected 40,000 objections photo Ministersrejected40000objections.jpg

“It is essential that we make the most of home-sourced energy and start exploring the natural energy supplies beneath our feet. As the cleanest fossil fuel shale gas provides a bridge to a much greener future,” said a statement from the Department of Energy and Climate Change. “By removing barriers to deep underground drilling access, we are speeding up oil and gas and deep geothermal energy exploration. ”

The Conservative energy minister, Matt Hancock, said: “These new rules will help Britain to explore the great potential of our national shale gas and geothermal resources, as we work towards a greener future – and open up thousands of new jobs in doing so.”

“This is an important day for the future of energy supply in the UK,” said Ken Cronin, chief executive of the industry’s trade body, UK Onshore Oil and Gas  (UKOOG). “Landowners on the surface will not notice this underground activity [usually a mile deep] and it will have no impact on their day-to-day lives.”

But Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said: “This sham consultation exposes the government’s disregard for the growing public concern about the major environmental and health risks of fracking. The decision to deny people the right to say no to fracking under their own homes is outrageous. It shows that ministers are putting the greed of oil and gas companies above the public interest in tackling climate change.”

Simon Clydesdale, from Greenpeace, said: “The roar of opposition to this arrogant policy is deafening, yet ministers are determined to blithely ignore what the overwhelming majority of the British public thinks and wants. There will be a hefty political price to pay for this massive sell-out to the narrow interests of the shale lobby.”

Friends of the Earth’s Jane Thomas said: “This government seems hell-bent on fracking irrespective of widespread opposition. You’d think with a general election approaching politicians would listen to public opinion and get behind the popular energy solutions of cutting waste and backing renewables.”

The changes to the trespass laws were also criticised by Scotland’s energy minister Fergus Ewing: “UK government proposals to remove the right of Scottish householders to object to drilling under their homes, without so much as debate in the Scottish parliament, flies in the face of Scotland’s cautious, considered and evidence based approach on this issue. It is also fundamentally an issue affecting land ownership rights.”

In January, another controversial pro-fracking legal change was passed in the face of overwhelming public opposition. The change, which ditched the requirement to notify homes individually of future shale gas operations, was criticised by a Lords committee as having been rushed through without proper parliamentary scrutiny.

Fracking companies will still need to obtain regulatory permissions, such as planning and environmental permits.

Earlier in September, the planning committee of the South Downs National Park Authority voted unanimously to reject an application by Celtique Energie to undertake exploratory drilling as a precursor to fracking at Fernhurst in West Sussex.

Environment | The Guardian.

Invasive Chinese mitten crab found in Scotland prompts salmon fears #ChineseMittenCrab

Hairy crab remains found in the Clyde lead to warnings the invasive species could have devastating impacts on Scottish fish.

by Adam Vaughan.
Remains of a Chinese mitten crab (Eriocheir sinensis) were found north of the border for the first time.Remains of a Chinese mitten crab (Eriocheir sinensis) were found north of the border for the first time. Photograph: Blickwinkel/Alamy

The Chinese mitten crab, one of the 100 worst alien invaders in the world according to conservationists, appears to have arrived in Scotland for the first time.

Remains of one of the ‘hairy crabs’, named because of a hair-like covering on their claws, was found in the river Clyde in June. Experts have said it could have a “devastating” impact on Scotland’s salmon, which is a crucial export for the country.

The crabs (Eriocheir sinensis) have already spread across many of England’s waterways, including the Thames and as far north as the Tyne, since the first recorded sighting in 1935. They are believed to have arrived via shipping. One study showed the rate of their spread speeding up, from colonising 48 miles of coastline a year between 1976 and 1999, to 278 miles each year between 1997 and 1999.

But the discovery by the Clyde River Foundation of a single specimen is the first evidence the invasive species has crossed north of the border. As well as outcompeting other marine life, they cause erosion by damaging riverbanks and impact infrastructure such as dykes when they burrow into them. Research by the Natural History Museum has shown they can eat salmon and trout eggs.

Dr Willie Yeomans, catchment manager for the foundation, said : “Another invasive, non-native species appears to have arrived in the Clyde. This chance discovery by an angler poses a potentially significant ecological threat to the Clyde system, the biota of which is recovering from centuries of poor water quality and structural modification.”

Dr David Morritt, of the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway, University of London, told the BBC: “The occurrence of these Chinese mitten crabs in a Scottish river could have a devastating impact on the famous salmon and trout fishing rivers should they manage to reach parts of the catchments where these fish spawn.”

It is not clear yet whether the crab was deliberately released or has naturally colonised the river, and the foundation is appealing for sightings of further specimens.

The GuardianEnvironment.

Austria challenges UK’s nuclear ambitions #UK #NuclearPower #Austria

Hinkley Point Nuclear Power StationHinkley Point nuclear power station in the UK. Photo: Richard Baker/Wikimedia

Austria will launch a legal challenge if the European Commission approves Britain’s ambitious plan to build its first new nuclear plant in a generation, Vienna’s environment minister said Wednesday.

To the alarm of environmentalists, a spokesman for EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said on Monday that Brussels will “recommend a positive decision” on the Hinkley Point project, reported Agence France-Presse.

“This scandal has to be fought by all legal means possible,” Andra Rupprechter told the Kurier daily, adding that he would apply to the European Court of Justice to have the decision annulled.

The Hinkley Point C project, to be built by France’s EDF for $26 billion (19 billion euros), is one of the world’s most ambitious nuclear deals and is seen as a key boost to the industry.

Brussels launched a probe in late 2013, delving into the project’s price guarantee system that critics say will hurt consumers and contradicts London’s stated aim of boosting renewable energies.

Together with Austria, which has no nuclear power stations, a number of other countries have also expressed concerns that EU approval would make a mockery of the bloc’s stated policy to promote solar and wind power.

The final decision is expected next month, and Rupprechter said that he and EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn, also an Austrian, would do all they can between now and then to change Almunia’s mind.

The Local – Austria.

Leonardo DiCaprio at the UN: ‘Climate change is not hysteria – it’s a fact’ #ClimateChange

‘The time to answer the greatest challenge of our existence on this planet is now. You can make history or be vilified by it’

Leonardo DiCaprio.
Leonardo DiCaprio speaks at the opening of the UN climate summit in New York on Tuesday.Leonardo DiCaprio speaks at the opening of the UN climate summit in New York on Tuesday. Photograph: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

Thank you, Mr Secretary General, your excellencies, ladies and gentleman, and distinguished guests. I’m honored to be here today, I stand before you not as an expert but as a concerned citizen, one of the 400,000 people who marched in the streets of New York on Sunday, and the billions of others around the world who want to solve our climate crisis.

As an actor I pretend for a living. I play fictitious characters often solving fictitious problems.

I believe humankind has looked at climate change in that same way: as if it were a fiction, happening to someone else’s planet, as if pretending that climate change wasn’t real would somehow make it go away.

But I think we know better than that. Every week, we’re seeing new and undeniable climate events, evidence that accelerated climate change is here now. We know that droughts are intensifying, our oceans are warming and acidifying, with methane plumes rising up from beneath the ocean floor. We are seeing extreme weather events, increased temperatures, and the West Antarctic and Greenland ice-sheets melting at unprecedented rates, decades ahead of scientific projections.

None of this is rhetoric, and none of it is hysteria. It is fact. The scientific community knows it, Industry and governments know it, even the United States military knows it. The chief of the US navy’s Pacific command, admiral Samuel Locklear, recently said that climate change is our single greatest security threat.

My Friends, this body – perhaps more than any other gathering in human history – now faces that difficult task. You can make history … or be vilified by it.

To be clear, this is not about just telling people to change their light bulbs or to buy a hybrid car. This disaster has grown BEYOND the choices that individuals make. This is now about our industries, and governments around the world taking decisive, large-scale action.

I am not a scientist, but I don’t need to be. Because the world’s scientific community has spoken, and they have given us our prognosis, if we do not act together, we will surely perish.

Now is our moment for action.

We need to put a pricetag on carbon emissions, and eliminate government subsidies for coal, gas, and oil companies. We need to end the free ride that industrial polluters have been given in the name of a free-market economy, they don’t deserve our tax dollars, they deserve our scrutiny. For the economy itself will die if our ecosystems collapse.

The good news is that renewable energy is not only achievable but good economic policy. New research shows that by 2050 clean, renewable energy could supply 100% of the world’s energy needs using existing technologies, and it would create millions of jobs.

This is not a partisan debate; it is a human one. Clean air and water, and a livable climate are inalienable human rights. And solving this crisis is not a question of politics. It is our moral obligation – if, admittedly, a daunting one.

We only get one planet. Humankind must become accountable on a massive scale for the wanton destruction of our collective home. Protecting our future on this planet depends on the conscious evolution of our species.

This is the most urgent of times, and the most urgent of messages.

Honoured delegates, leaders of the world, I pretend for a living. But you do not. The people made their voices heard on Sunday around the world and the momentum will not stop. And now it’s YOUR turn, the time to answer the greatest challenge of our existence on this planet … is now.

I beg you to face it with courage. And honesty. Thank you.

The Guardian.

Rewilding Britain: bringing wolves, bears and beavers back to the land #RewildingBritain #Environment

Introducing extinct species to the landscape is called rewilding and advocates enthuse about the benefits. But opponents fear the impact could be devastating.

Adam Vaughan.
The European grey wolves – is it time to bring them back to Britain’s forests?The European grey wolves – is it time to bring them back to Britain’s forests? Photograph: Bernhardt Reiner/Alamy.

A pair of highland ponies nibble grass as two kestrels swoop across the path. Up a rock face across this windswept valley deep in the Scottish highlands, a golden eagle is hunting for prey, its movements tracked by a GPS tag. Nearby are Scottish wildcats among the bracken – Europe’s rarest cat, with fewer than 400 left – plus red squirrels, black grouse, the occasional pine marten, shaggy highland cattle adapted to the harsh environment here, and, like much of the highlands, plenty of deer. Wild boar and moose roamed this corner of Sutherland until recently.

But if Paul Lister, the estate’s multimillionaire owner and the heir to the MFI fortune gets his way, two species not seen on this land for centuries could soon be added to the list: wolves and bears. Alladale estate, which Lister prefers to call a “wilderness reserve”, is one of the most ambitious examples of so-called “rewilding”, the banner under which a growing number of people are calling for the reintroduction of locally extinct species to landscapes. Bringing back species such as wolves, beavers and lynx, rewilding advocates say, can increase the diversity of other flora and fauna, enable woodlands to expand and help reconnect people with nature.

The unofficial figurehead for this movement, the outlines of which will become clearer with the formation of a new charity early next year called Rewilding Britain, is Guardian columnist and author George Monbiot. His book Feral, published in 2013, has been reprinted over 30 times in hardback and has led to a national debate over the merits of restoring the country to a wilder state.

“For me, it’s part of a wider effort to develop a positive environmentalism, which we desperately need,” says Monbiot. “It’s about creating a vision for a better world that is much more appealing than just laying out what is wrong with the current one, of having a rather more inspiring one than saying, ‘Do as we say and world will be a bit less crap than it could be’.”

European bison (Bison bonasus) at Armenis, Tarcu Mountains, southwestern Romania. They were brought to Armenis in May as part of a rewilding project.European bison (Bison bonasus) at Armenis, Tarcu Mountains, southwestern Romania. They were brought to Armenis in May as part of a rewilding project. Photograph: Bogdan Cristel/Reuters

While rewilding efforts on continental Europe have seen substantial progress – Eurasian beavers are now found in 25 countries, European bison have returned across eastern Europe including one of the biggest reintroductions in Romania this May, and wolves have spread across much of Europe including Germany, France and last year one was even found in the Netherlands – in the UK there has been more talk than action. It is a charge that even Monbiot admits is not unfair, but he argues: “Talk precedes action.”

One area where rewilding efforts in Britain have made some modest progress, albeit at very local levels, is in native tree-planting. In a Cumbrian valley, the Wild Ennerdale project has seen conifers for forestry replaced with native broadleaf species whose populations have dwindled. Knepp Castle estate, in West Sussex, has been planting relatively rare native black poplars as part of its rewilding efforts. In just over two decades, Trees for Life in Scotland has planted 1.2 million trees, mostly Scots pine, and plans to reach its second million in the next five years while diversifying into other species including aspen.

Trees could be helped further by returning wolves and other top predators to Britain, Monbiot says, because of the knock-on effects of such “keystone” species. One of the most famous case studies is the return of wolves to Yellowstone national park in the 90s, which have been credited with moving deer around, meaning less damage to new trees, allowing them and other vegetation to grow, stabilising the soil along river banks.

In Scotland, deer still pose a serious threat to the 600,000-odd trees that Lister has planted in the glens at his estate and the hundreds of thousands more planned, even though the management has already culled deer numbers by 50% over a decade, to around 600. Wolves would not only reduce those numbers further – they specialise in killing deer – but would be a tourist attraction too. “We’ve managed to put a man on the moon, I don’t see why we can’t get wolves back in Scotland,” says Lister. Bears would also learn to specialise in killing deer, he believes, and would be an even more dramatic pull for visitors than wolves.

Paul Lister who has introduced wild boar and elk on his estate at Alladale, Sutherland, Scotland.Paul Lister who has introduced wild boar and elk on his estate at Alladale, Sutherland, Scotland. Photograph: Alamy

But Lister’s plan does not extend to allowing these carnivores completely off the leash. “I’m not an advocate of reintroduction, I’m not a supporter of letting these big animals out in the freedom of the countryside, because we’ve sanitised our landscape so much I don’t think there’s enough tolerance of these animals for us to be coached through the whole process.” Instead, Lister wants to fence in land at Alladale and on neighbouring estates to release two packs of around five wolves each, plus bears, which he says would be a huge pull for day visitors to the estate, generating jobs for locals through increased demand for B&Bs, work on the fence and ecology roles.

But the idea of fencing-in such a large tract of land raises hackles with hikers, who have a legal right to roam across the estate. “Our view is that it’s not a reintroduction that he’s trying to do, he’s trying to create a giant zoo,” says Dave Morris, director of Ramblers Scotland. “We’ve always resisted this, saying it would be inappropriate to fence in such a huge area of land, and it would have big landscape impacts, as you’d have to have a road all around it.”

Privately, some rewilding advocates express concern that Lister’s uncompromising style could set back support for rewilding. Some people living near Alladale are not convinced yet either. One householder, who did not wish to be named, told the Observer: “Is he still on about that nonsense? What if the wolves break out? We worry for our son [who has sheep]. We had a meeting about it. It was pointed out to him [Lister] that if it was covered by the snow, the wolves would get over the fence. We might get a wolf on our doorstep.”

Finlay Collouch, a neighbour who said he supported the estate’s tree-planting and outreach education with local children, said of the wolves plan: “It doesn’t put me up nor down if they do it, as long as they keep them there. But I don’t see how they’re going to keep them there [because of the snow drifts going over fences].”

Alladale’s man on the ground, Innes MacNeill, the reserve manager, says he cannot see how it could happen without a fence, because farmers would shoot wolves if they were reintroduced straight into the wild. “The fence is probably one of the things we need to overcome. Ultimately the general public have to want this, they have to want something different, something that would hopefully be really special.”

The return of the wolf, however, could be eased by the reintroduction of a far less controversial species. Jamie Wyver is a masters student at Imperial College London looking at public attitudes towards the reintroduction of the lynx in the Scottish highlands and Forest of Dean. “The interesting thing about the lynx is it’s almost like we’ve forgotten about it. It doesn’t feature in nursery tales. It just gets missed off. It might be because they’ve been gone for a longer time [than wolves and bears] but it’s probably because they’re not a threat to humans. There are no records anywhere in Europe of anyone ever being attacked by a lynx,” he says.

A Eurasian lynx in Bavarian forest, Germany.A Eurasian lynx in Bavarian forest, Germany. Photograph: Christoph Bosch/Alamy

Wyver says most people he has spoken to know so little about the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx), which is still present in much of northern and eastern Europe and some southern European countries, that they often first think he is enquiring about the deodorant rather than the carnivore. Lynx could be back in the UK as soon as 2025, thinks Alan Watson Featherstone, the founder of Trees for Life. “The big picture is there are far too many deer in Scotland for the habitat. The next crucial step is to get a predator back, because that ecological level of top predators is missing. The wolf is not the one to begin with, because it comes with tremendous prejudice: the Three Little Pigs, Red Riding Hood; it gets the works thrown at it.

“We’re promoting the lynx as a more feasible candidate for reintroduction, it’s a solitary animal, an ambush hunter, it’s quite secretive,” says Featherstone, who believes that restoring enough habitat – in the shape of native woodland – is crucial to help such species come back. The lynx, he argues, would give people the experience of living again with a carnivore, and make a wolf reintroduction many years later more realistic.

Hundreds of miles south, in a forest on the west coast of Scotland, one species is already getting its teeth back into the UK landscape four centuries after being hunted to extinction for its fur. Four families of European beavers (Castor fiber) have spent the last five years in an official captive trial where they have successfully produced young (known as kits), built lodges and dams, in one case causing a freshwater loch to grow up to five times in size as a result.

“In some respects, it’s no great surprise – beavers do what we expected beavers to do,” said Simon Jones, head of major projects for Scottish Wildlife Trust, who oversaw the Scottish beaver trial at Knapdale, in Argyll and Bute. “But the whole point is that it’s not just about species reintroduction, it’s about what beavers do. Beavers create good habitat for other species – where you get beavers, you get good biodiversity. That’s not necessarily what our trial was about, but the wider drive in the wild for considering them is that the science shows amphibians, otters, waterfowl do well [as a result], because beavers are this keystone species that creates habitat that other species can use.”

European beavers were reintroduced at Ham Fen nature reserve in Kent, UK.European beavers were reintroduced at Ham Fen nature reserve in Kent, UK. Photograph: Terry Whittaker/Alamy

An unlicensed population of around 150 beavers has also established itself on the river Tay, near Dundee. The Scottish government initially planned to trap them, but later decided against it. Next year, Holyrood is expected to make a decision on what to do about both sets of beavers. Knapdale also serves as an example that reintroductions rarely happen overnight. It took 11 years to become reality, after the trial was first floated in 1998. Campaigners have been lobbying for a similar amount of time to return the herbivores to England and Wales, but plans to bring them back in the wild in Ceredigion in Wales this year have not yet come to fruition. In England, slow progress appears to have prompted individuals to take matters into their own hands.

This February, Tom Buckley, a retired environmental scientist, photographed beavers on the river Otter in Devon, the first in the wild in England for centuries. Local people attending a public meeting this August at Ottery St Mary, a village along the river, say that the beavers have been out in the area for several years longer, a secret known to some but until recently not broadcast more widely, though it remains a mystery where they came from.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said this summer that it would trap the beavers, in part to test for a disease not currently in the UK (alveolar echinococcosis), but officials will not say whether the family, which expanded with the addition of three kits in July, will be allowed to return or will be re-housed elsewhere at a zoo or other site, even if they test all-clear for the disease. People living near the river Otter are certainly largely in favour of the beavers being returned, a straw poll by the Observer suggests. Adrian Forster, who lives a few hundred yards from the river and wrote a song about the beavers, said: “I do feel really passionately that we have removed them by killing them centuries ago, and just as a matter of fairness and justice, if we can do anything to return them to their native habitat we ought to do that. They were a native species, and unless we have very good reasons, however they’ve managed to get there, they ought to be left alone.”

Wildlife reintroductions around the world

Arabian oryx
Arabian oryxA victim of hunting, these porcelain-coloured antelope were wiped out in the wild in the 1970s. Thanks to private collections and zoos, however, breeding programmes were established and since the 1980s the oryx has been reintroduced across the Arabian peninsula. Wild populations of these endangered animals now exist from Oman to Israel.

Przewalski’s horse
Przewalski's horseThat’s pronounced “sheh-val-skee” for the show-offs, but conservationists just say “P-horse”. This last surviving subspecies of wild horse is once again grazing the steppes of its native Mongolia, where they are called “takhi”, Mongolian for spirit, after reintroduction in the 1990s. China and Kazakhstan followed suit, and 400 P-horses exist in the wild today.

Wyoming toad
Wyoming toadExclusive to Albany County, Wyoming, the toad became extinct by the early 1990s. Thankfully, a small captive-bred population was enough to start the reintroduction and 100,000 tadpoles and toadlets have since been released. However, there may be more trouble ahead, as the deadly chytrid fungus poses a significant threat.

California condor
California condorCaptive breeding programmes have kept this large vulture with us after it became extinct in the wild in 1987. The scavenger has an impressive wingspan of more than 3m and the bird can live up to 60 years. Although it is still a rare sight, lucky birdwatchers can spot it hovering over, or feasting on, large dead mammals in California and Arizona.

Cheetahs in India
Cheetahs in IndiaA hot topic in Indian politics, the reintroduction of cheetahs to India awaits a supreme court go-ahead after a backlash last year. If successful, these speedy cats – which can run at 60mph – will be brought from Africa to run wild in India where their Asian cousins were hunted to extinction in 1952.
Sophie Morlin-Yron.

Local resident Pam Baker-Clare said: “Everyone seemed very proud of the beavers. But if the government gets mixed up in this, they will disappear.”

Some visitors to the meeting, organised by the Devon Wildlife Trust, which is looking to submit a bid for a licence for the beavers to return, sounded more wary.

“I’m a bit cautious about the future. I appreciate that reintroducing beavers means we don’t have any predators other than man, because the wolf has disappeared so obviously the population increase [of beavers] and what happens in a 100 years’ time has to be answered,” said John Killingbeck, who lives nearby. “Our landscape has changed since we had beavers. We are much more densely populated, we are trying to farm, there are effects on rivers, on catchment zones, on fisheries.

About an hour away near Okehampton in north Devon, a three-hectare fenced enclosure demonstrates dramatically why beavers are referred to as a keystone species.

Hundreds of fallen willow and birch trunks criss-cross the captive trial site, with distinctive pencil-shaped stubs remaining amid a network of canals, paths, small dams and 10 ponds that a pair of beavers introduced in 2011 have built, along with an increasingly elaborate lodge where they sleep during the day before emerging at night to work.

“The impact they’ve had has been phenomenal, they’ve blown us away, they’ve done what we hoped for and more. We’ve been surprised at how effective they’ve been,” says Mark Elliott of the Devon Wildlife Trust, which runs the project.

There was no static water here before, and just 10 clumps of frogspawn were counted in 2010. This year, 370 clumps were spotted. Around the ponds, butterflies dance and dragonflies hover.

Drawn by the invertebrates that have appeared as the forest cover has thinned out, birds have arrived, including herons feasting on the frogs, spotted flycatchers, snipe and woodcock. Vegetation has sprouted up in the gaps created by the felled trees, including orchids, pond weeds and purple moor grass, a “really good sign” of the habitat’s health, Elliott says.

The University of Exeter is now measuring the height of water levels and collecting water samples to see whether, as expected, the habitat the beavers create filters and cleans the water, removing phosphates and other pollutants. The project could also generate data that proves beavers can reduce flood risk – during this winter’s floods there were calls by the Mammal Society to reintroduce them for just that purpose.

“If we can provide evidence that beavers in the top of the catchments reduce floods downstream, that’s gold dust really,” Elliott said. “If you can reduce the flood risk downstream by 10%, that could in many cases be the difference between flooding and not flooding. It can mean the size of your flood defences can be lower. It means the cost of that sort of work can be reduced. Potentially it’s of huge financial benefit to society.”

Yet both the farming and angling lobbies in the UK are opposed to beavers returning to the wild. The National Farmers’ Union’s countryside adviser, Claire Robinson, said: “We believe efforts, and finances, would be better focused on retaining current biodiversity.” If beavers were allowed out in the wild, there would “rightly be concerns about them causing damage to the environment, including farmland”, she said.

Mark Owen, head of freshwater at the Angling Trust, said the landscape had changed so much since beavers were last in Britain that it would be inappropriate to bring them back. “In the last 500 years-odd, we’ve heavily straightened our rivers, we’ve caused pollution, so when beavers were in this country, the river system would’ve looked completely different. Rather than a top-down approach of introducing a water engineer like a beaver, we’d rather rivers were improved to a point where we could look at reintroducing beavers.” Owen cited a list of concerns, including half-gnawed trees posing a threat to fishermen and the potential dangers posed when beaver dams break.

Even among the most enthusiastic rewilding supporters, however, few believe that reintroduced species should be allowed to run truly wild. None, even Monbiot, are arguing for a blanket, mass return of farmland to nature. But advocates hope that even on this crowded island, there is still room for more wildlife, and that people could learn to live alongside it.

Elliot, walking alongside a beaver canal, says: “If we do get beavers back [in the wild], we have to accept we will have to manage conflicts, like they do in Europe. There’s no point in reintroducing an animal and not managing conflict.”

The Guardian.