Defra rejects proposed measures to support and manage reintroductions.
Reintroducing wildlife species such as beavers and eagles to areas where they have become extinct is not a priority, the Government has said.
In a letter published on Friday, 27 October, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (Defra) stated that although it has supported the reintroduction of native species, it won’t be introducing any new measures to help support and manage reintroductions.
Instead, the Government said that it is focused on reaching biodiversity targets through other methods, including improving and creating habitats and tackling pollution and climate change.
The letter was written in reply to a report published by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA). The report called on the Government to do more to support species reintroduction and mitigate any potential adverse effects.
The committee wanted to see the Government produce a list of priority species for reintroduction, assess the risks of reintroducing different species, and improve stakeholder engagement. Defra rejected these proposals, saying that existing measures were enough.
Reintroducing species that are locally extinct has become a major conservation strategy. Species such as pine martens and red kites have been translocated to areas of the UK where they had disappeared, and beavers have been reintroduced to selected areas, centuries after they were last seen in the UK.
However reintroductions have been controversial, with concerns raised by some local farmers and land managers about the impact on farmland.
Sir Robert Goodwill, chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said: “The Government has said that species reintroductions are not a priority and so it will not produce a strategy for managing them. This is despite the fact that reintroductions are currently taking place in the UK and raising concerns in farming and rural communities, particularly in relation to increased flooding risks arising from beaver reintroductions.
“The Government have in the past played a role in supporting the reintroduction of lost native species, including the red kite and pool frog. However, given the important potential benefits of species reintroduction and considering the Government’s own targets on biodiversity, it is concerning that they do not have a plan on species reintroduction and disappointing that they have not responded positively to our report and taken more steps to manage the reintroductions taking place as we speak.”
The Government has defended its stance. A Defra spokesperson said: “We have consistently supported the reintroduction of recently lost former native species when it has been appropriate to do so. Species such as the large blue butterfly, red kite and pool frog have already been reintroduced.
“To achieve our ambitious targets for biodiversity we are focused on habitat restoration, creation and improved connectivity; tackling pressures on species including pollution, unsustainable use of resources and climate change; and targeted action to recover specific species.”
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