The Sunday Telegraph
Farmers could be paid to rewild riverbanks for beavers
Animals could help ‘garden’ the trees to keep them in check under plans put forward to ministers
LANDOWNERS could be paid to stop tending riverbanks on their property under government plans to help reintroduce beavers.
Farmers would be prevented from cultivating up to the river’s edge, to encourage trees and shrubs to grow as part of a “nature recovery network” across the country.
Ben Goldsmith, Defra’s new Nature Champion, has been discussing the rewilding plan with his minister brother Lord Goldsmith for years, The Sunday Telegraph understands.
They have been lobbying Boris Johnson to include the idea in the post-Brexit Environments Land Management Strategy, and the Prime Minister will ask farmers to adopt the plan as part of a series of woodland creation policies. The Government has been working with the Beaver Trust to discuss how the animals could help “garden” the trees, and ensure they do not become overgrown.
Lord Goldsmith, the forestry minister, said: “Encouraging trees to grow along England’s watercourses will offer numerous benefits for water quality, flood management, biodiversity and climate resilience – helping rivers to adapt to the changing climate.
“Through our upcoming action plan on trees and woodlands, which will set out new steps to meet our commitments to tackle climate change and protect nature, we will be creating an ambitious new package of support for creating woodlands near rivers and waterways.”
Under the scheme, landowners would be given “significant” subsidies for allowing the space next to waterways – believed to be around 6ft – to remain wild, senior government sources told The Telegraph.
It is understood that the habitat is being created with the aim of releasing beavers into river catchments to help with biodiversity.
A recent government review found that the aquatic mammals increase the numbers of fish and invertebrates in river catchments and reduce flooding. The timing of beaver releases will be outlined in the forthcoming National Beaver Strategy.
It is hoped that the new woodland will also improve conditions for aquatic life and tackle climate change, as it provides shade and reduces the summer water temperature for fish. It could also help slow the flow of rivers and temporarily store water as part of Natural Flood Management, and prevent excessive riverbank erosion and collapse.
Ben Goldsmith said: “The ground alongside watercourses is not particularly useful for agriculture. Creating a network of riparian woodland buffers will have little impact on food production but an enormously positive impact in reducing flooding and drought, giving us cleaner water and creating nature corridors for wildlife.”