The Scottish Government has received petitions from over 20 environmental organizations calling for the reintroduction and official recognition of the beaver as one of the indigenous species in Scotland.
The petitioners are made up of non-government organizations (NGOs) such as WWF Scotland, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, the Friends of the Earth Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland (NTS).
They believe the beaver is an important part of the biodiversity in Scotland, and that it is morally and ecologically right to restore the numbers of the species in the wild.
Lindsay MacKinlay, adviser on nature conservation for NTS, said that wild beavers had lived in Scotland in the past and that individual trees have started to grow in areas where the animals used to live.
MacKinlay explained that the National Trust for Scotland views the return of wild beavers to Scotland as a strong possibility. She said that the decision to reintroduce the species was made after considering scientific evidence and experiences collected from other countries.
Reforesting Scotland director Alan Carter pointed out that biodiversity has increased and fish stocks are higher in river catchments where beavers are located. He said that pollution in these areas is filtered out and flood peaks are reduced.
Carter said that while people spend millions in order to improve the environment, beavers help do it for free.
"They can have negative impacts too, but experience from places as diverse as the Netherlands and the USA shows that these can be managed effectively," Carter said.
The Scottish Beaver Trial, which is the first license reintroduction of mammals to the United Kingdom, was finished last year. The five-year study has helped bring back the beaver to Scotland after an absence of about 400 years.
The results of the program will be studied by ministers in Scotland, and they will decide whether the beaver should be allowed to stay later in the year.
The coalition of conservation groups argues that there is enough suitable habitats for the animals in Scotland that can support the propagation of the beaver population in the region.
Beaver populations have been shown to thrive in freshwater habitats based on previous scientific models and experiences from other countries in Europe. Studies have also shown that restoring the population of beavers in an area would have several benefits.
The groups claim that beavers could help restore freshwater habitats for other animals as well by improving the function and processes in nature. They can also improve the robustness and diversity of ecosystems against the adverse effects of climate change and the destruction of habitats.
Photo: Bill Damon | Flickr