A charity has launched a consultation in a bid to make historic Highlands estate Scotland’s next beaver release site.
It is hoped Glen Affric, will be home to the first official release of beavers to the north-west Highlands since the species was driven to extinction some 400 years ago.
Trees for Life have launched the community discussions on behalf of four private landowners and Forestry and Land Scotland, who all manage land that has habitat capable of supporting a beaver population.
Following the six week consultation, which will run from Monday, answers will be submitted to the Scottish Government’s nature agency NatureScot in September as part of the beaver licence application.
Trees for Life have campaigned to protect beavers, a native species which were reintroduced to Scotland in 2009, and called for the animal to be relocated to suitable habitats – as an alternative to culling when they have unwanted impacts on land.
Alan McDonnell, from Trees for Life, said: “Studies show that beavers can bring extensive environmental and economic benefits.
“At the same time, understanding the views of the local community – from other landowners to angling clubs – is a key step in deciding whether to go ahead with any proposed beaver release.
“Like us, the landowners making this proposal really want to hear what people think.”
If the licence is approved, up to three pairs of beavers could be relocated to Glen Affric from lower Tayside before the end of the year.
The releases would then be spread out over two to three years, with the Beaver Trust carrying out the translocations around Loch Affric and Loch Beinn a’Mheadhain.
Joan Cumming, the north region environment advisor at Forestry and Land Scotland, said: “Proposals such as this can excite a lot of opinion – supportive, opposed, or somewhere in-between – so it’s important that as broad a range of stakeholders as possible get in touch with Trees for Life to take part in the conversation and make their views known.
Following its change in approach to beaver management last year, the Scottish Government now actively supports relocations to suitable locations across Scotland, and the publication of Scotland’s first National Beaver Strategy is imminent.
NatureScot now also operates a Beaver Mitigation Scheme, which provides advice and funding to landowners and farmers to manage beaver impacts.