Scottish Land & Estates believes that a rigorous trial reintroduction process must be followed before species are permanently reintroduced to Scotland. Trials should be carefully monitored and assessed against strict criteria. It is essential that social and economic costs and benefits are taken into account as well as environmental costs and benefits. Only after conclusive evidence demonstrates that a significant benefit will accrue from the reintroduction of a species should it be permitted to be permanently resident.
This must include a robust exit strategy and an agreed up front ability to manage negative impacts of such reintroductions should they occur in the future post reintroduction. If the evidence is inconclusive or indeed demonstrates that the reintroduction will be socially, economically or environmentally detrimental then the reintroduction should be abandoned.
Scottish Land & Estates sits on the National Species Reintroduction Forum run by Scottish Natural Heritage to represent the view of land owners, managers and estates in Scotland. This group was set up following concerted pressure from the land management sector for a better say in such reintroductions.
There are two reintroduction projects ongoing at the moment in which Scottish Land & Estates is involved:
Scottish Land & Estates represents the interests of members on the Sea Eagle Management Group. Between 1975 and 1985 82 young sea eagles were reintroduced to Scotland on Rum. A second reintroduction programme took place between 1993 and 1998 concentrating on the north and west Scottish Highlands. Finally, in 2007 a five-year release programme began in Fife to try and re-establish the species in the east of Scotland. The species is listed under the SNH Species Action framework and therefore it is a high priority for conservation and management measures.
Scottish Natural Heritage operates a Sea Eagle Management Scheme which is open to applicants managing land within the vicinity of breeding sea eagles. The scheme is operated on behalf of the Sea Eagle Partnership, of which Scottish Land & Estates is a part. The scheme is open to applicants until 31st August 2011, with a further application period from 1st to 31st October 2011. Further application periods will be announced each year until Autumn 2013 when the scheme closes. The scheme booklet and application form are available on Scottish Natural Heritage's website.
Scottish Land & Estates sits on the stakeholder group for the Scottish Beaver Reintroduction Trial. This five year trial took place in Knapdale Forest, Mid-Argyll following approval by the then Minister of Environment Michael Russell MSP. The project partners are Scottish Wildlife Trust, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and Forestry Commission Scotland. Scottish Natural Heritage is acting as an independent monitor. The trial ended spring 2014 and reports on the outcomes have been submitted to Scottish Natural Heritage.
In the meantime, there have been unauthorised releases in Tayside. Rather than remove this population, the Scottish Government made the decision to monitor this population alongside the official trial. The "Tayside Beaver Study Group" have produced a report, also to be submitted to Scottish Natural Heritage, on the Tayside population. The Tayside population in now far more extensive than the official trial population in Argyll.
Scottish Natural Heritage will produce a final composite report for Scottish Ministers in 2015 after which a decision on the future of beavers in Scotland will be made.
Scottish Land & Estates position is that we are concerned about the proposed reintroduction of beaver to Scotland. There are issues for low lying agricultural ground in particular and concerns for forestry and fishing interests. Scottish Land & Estates wish to be clear about how these issues will be mitigated, managed or compensated.