Row of cows at farm in Shropshire

New Revenue Streams

07/09/20New Revenue Streams

The natural habitats associated with wildlife in our countryside are protected now more than ever. Legislation is ensuring that these habitats are being retained and looked after, so that we get the balance right between rural development and a natural environment. An example of the Government’s recent developments in this area has been the granting of a ‘right to remain’ for beavers living on the River Otter in East Devon.

Return of a native

Following a five-year study, 15 families of beavers have been allowed to remain living on the river from August 2020. Devon Wildlife Trust looked at the beavers' impact on the local environment, as a result of them being on the river. The animals are now deemed to be beneficial to the countryside, and farmers and landowners could be paid to have them on their land. The Trust has called it “the most ground-breaking government decision for England’s wildlife for a generation”. This is the first time a native mammal that has become extinct here has been allowed, with government backing, to reappear in our landscape. 400 years ago, beavers were hunted to extinction for their meat, water-resistant fur and a secretion that could be used in food, medicine and perfume. At present, there are over 50 adults and young living on the River Otter.

A natural choice

The beavers’ positive impact identified during the Devon trial has convinced the government to pursue this further. On the River Otter, the beavers’ presence replenished and enhanced the ecology of the water’s catchment area, increasing the the number of fish in the river and improving water quality. As beavers are herbivores, the knock-on effect of this was more food for the native otter population and cleaner water. It was even identified that they helped mitigate against flooding, as their dams acted as natural flood defences. This in turn protected land and homes further downstream.

A diverse environment

Closer to home, a smaller-scale project will see a pair of beavers released into an enclosed site near Hatchmere in Delamere Forest, Cheshire. This is part of a five-year project to assess their positive impact on the area and environment.

If the Government goes ahead and introduces grants for allowing beavers to settle permanently on stretches of water on farmland, it could become a diversification option for landowners. If a landowner had a watercourse running through their land, it may benefit from the presence of beavers and the positive aspects they bring to rural ecology. A government grant would mean an income and also provide the stimulus for tourist traffic – the beavers would attract visitors to the area, who themselves could also become source of revenue. If inland fisheries and other aquatic projects can become so popular for farmers, there’s no reason why beavers shouldn’t be the next innovative revenue stream.

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