In what can only be described as a lacklustre Queen’s speech the venerable old Monarch spelt out some wonderful news for landowners & developers – clearing the way to allow them to benefit hugely from the granting of planning permissions and the sale of publicly owned land. Much of the increase in the land value, worth billions, to be siphoned off without tax to the offshore accounts of some of the UK’s wealthiest individuals.
Not only is the wealth and income of the 0.1%, who own most of the land in the UK, about to be increased, for no effort on their behalf, but changes in the way we subsidies landowners, through agricultural grants and tax breaks are to boosted, just as we continue to slash support for the poor and efforts to protect our wildlife. Capitalism for the poor and state controlled socialism for the rich!
But there is one thing going on in the UK that could help our wildlife and benefit people by cutting water bills and saving our towns from flooding. This activity will cost the tax payer nothing and only be of a small annoyance to landowners. And that is the return of beavers to our waterways. Mostly in Scotland but also in Devon, the signs of the beavers return are cropping up more and more.
So hidden within legislations announced by the Queen was a sneaky new announcement of ‘Species Control Orders’ that could be the legal instrument to kill off the beavers of the UK.
The new species control orders are to be issued to force the eradication of an invasive plant or animal, once it has been identified as non-native (one not ordinarily present in Great Britain or listed as non-native in Schedule 9 to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981) and invasive (a serious threat to local biodiversity or economy), and where the operations required meet a “proportionality” test. Unfortunately for the formally native beaver DEFRA legal eagles have defined the term ‘not ordinarily present’ to leave the beavers at risk and all the other animals we have driven to extinction in our recent past. But just to make sure efforts are now afoot to add beavers, otters and pine martens (just as they did for wild boar) to Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act
At present landowners do not have to deal with beavers if found on their land & can refuse access to any DEFRA official looking to kill the beavers as owners or occupiers would now not have the right to refuse and to breach a species control order which would be now a criminal offence.
While I for one would like to see the control of species like Japanese knotweed, Signal Crayfish, The Ruddy duck, Parakeets and the Zebra mussel and all the many destructive aliens introduced by gardeners and landowners over the years. I do not want to see such legislation hijacked by those wishing to ensure we cannot return wildlife that we have made extinct or enforce a vision of the countryside as monoculture factory farming and private shooting grounds for the rich at play, all subsidised by the taxpayer at the expense of the poor.
What’s the Solution To invasive Species?The reason so many non-native species are thriving in the UK is, not only do we import them, but because we have created a habitat for them. So much of our land, riverbanks and woodland have been changed by our activity to a drastic degree. It is not without interest that these alien invaders are mostly thriving in the riverbank and wetland habitats that would most benefit from the beavers return which as our most important keystone animal would return this habitat to a condition that generally favours native species and not the ‘invaders’.
In some circumstances control orders can make a difference, but it is like a doctor treating the symptom without treating the cause, the problem will go on and on. So let’s treat the cause and let the beaver do their magic to the river banks and wetlands of Britain.
Pine Marten, Red & Grey SquirrelsAnother example of our madness is red squirrels; non-native North American grey squirrels, introduced at the whim of some aristocratic thinking they look cute to his grounds, have edged out our native red squirrels. But it has been noted by many naturalists that red squirrels are present in the same place pine martens exist. Pine Martens were wiped out in England by gamekeepers to keep them from their shooting estates, allowing our landowning elite to shoot that other alien invader, the pheasant, bred in their 10,000’s still today . It is rare for reds, pine martens and grey squirrels to co-exist, in fact the return of Pine Martens to central Ireland has spelt doom for the invasive greys and a leap in red squirrel numbers. This example highlights the need to get our ecology back in balance to stop invasive species, but also stop killing off our own species in the wonderfully termed ‘trophic cascade’ as is used by rewinders such as myself or George Monbiot.
Otter, Mink & Water Voles (& Beaver)Another invasive species is the North American mink which has occupied many of our waterways, replacing our native otters that were hunted and poisoned to the edge of extinction. The mink have exploited our destroyed riverbanks to hunt the water vole to the verge of extinction seeing a catastrophic decline in over 90% of their population. Now that we are protecting otters and removed the worst of the poisons from our rivers otters are reoccupying England, and just like the pine marten when the otters return they quickly dispatch the North American Mink, otters, not predating on water voles, remove this alien menace, natures balance is partially restored and water voles are once again safe to make their home along our riverbanks. But even more importantly returning beavers to our rivers will create the complex riverbank habitat and wetlands where water voles will thrive irrespective of the presence of American Mink which can be seen where such relic habitat still exists where high water vole numbers and high mink numbers coexist.
Wild Boar and Oak Trees
Wild Boar offer a lifeline to woodland habitats and the rare species they harbour and it is a depressing fact that after hundreds of years of loss of this diversity some humans seem unable to tolerate their return. Now our woodlands are once again coming alive to their activity, government and private interests seam determined on the boar’s eradication.
Why the beaver must be savedThe beaver is the most important formally native animal to Britain that could create landscapes that protects out native plants and animals (and save us a fortune in water treatment and flood management costs). Yet the very legislation aimed at protecting us from alien invaders looks certain be used by a corrupt political and land management system to destroy the very animals that could help us.
Officials at DEFRA have stated this may not be the case, and I have huge sympathy to the our wildlife public servants, but these new draconian laws are dangerous and easily subverted by those eager to rid the countryside of wildlife and bend it to their own warped will as a playground for their historical fantasies of lethal subjugation of their ‘dominion’.
Tax Land Values & we will all turn into wise guardians of the landTo further the restoration of British wildlife and give it a fighting chance against these invasive aliens we need to create a system whereby it is in everyone’s best interest to protect wildlife, not through law but through making that choice in their best economic interest. This is best achieved through a tax shift. Stop taxing our hard work and trade and put taxes on land so as to make its use more efficient. Also taxes on natural resources and the damage we do to the environmental. Such a tax shift would cut unemployment and reduce poverty, but also turn even the most ardent wildlife hater into an ardent conservationist, willing or not as it would be in their best financial interest to become a wise guardian of the wild and a knowledgeable steward of the land.
The landowners of Britain, in our current legal and economic system, have no choice but to continue in their influence on Government and maintain their stranglehold on the monopoly of land, they will do all they can to increase the rent of land and they will no doubt fight our wonderful and returning beavers who can mitigate to a small degree their rapacious theft of our riverbanks and wetlands.
Beavers need friends and quickly if they are not to be snuffed out before they have had a chance to give our children a wetland system worth having.
Save the Free Beaver of EnglandJoin the fight by keeping in touch with the Save the Free Beaver of England Campaign’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/307063082782582/
Twitter Account: @CastorAnglicus https://twitter.com/CastorAnglicus
Further Reading:Our BBC Countryfile appearance on some of these issues:
Red squirrel finds pine marten a fearsome ally in its fight for survival: