Human-Wildlife Conflict:

Engaging Stakeholders in Developing the National Framework for Beaver Reintroduction

Beavers became extinct in England 400 years ago as a result of overhunting for meat, fur and making perfume.

Re-introducing the beaver into areas of the English countryside after all this time is now possible but controversial. Is it possible for co-existence between beavers and humans in a much altered landscape? Talking Transformation was contracted by Natural England to design and facilitate workshops to understand the conflicting perspectives and find ways to enable reintroduction in a way that maximises the benefits but minimises the risks, and to give stakeholders a voice in decision-making for a national framework for beaver reintroduction.  

Over many centuries the English landscape has been transformed and many species have been lost, but the government’s 25-year Environment Plan now seeks to reintroduce some native species, including the Eurasian beaver, which has been absent from the landscape for 400 years. It is an “ecosystem engineer”, which changes river flows and flooding patterns, thereby increasing biodiversity and resilience to climate change. Expectations – and fears – about benefits, costs, risks and opportunities vary between stakeholders, such as farmers, anglers, water agencies, flood managers, downstream towns and wildlife enthusiasts. Following a series of consultations, the responsible authority, Natural England, contracted Talking Transformation to design and implement a series of three stakeholder workshops, to help shape the framework for beaver reintroduction, build stakeholder buy-in and provide a platform for further stakeholder engagement. 

Talking Transformation used conflict transformation methodologies to understand the conflicting perspectives, their underlying causes and wider context, and try to transform them into an agreed approach to reintroduction. Participants identified mechanisms for integrating beaver reintroduction into planning at the landscape scale, because costs and benefits are distributed across entire river catchments and, besides, beaver populations can quickly expand their range throughout a river system. They also articulated clearly the risk of under-resourcing and consequent inability to manage beaver populations efficiently, thereby causing conflict and increased, unfairly distributed costs. Lastly, they recommended specific roles for the proposed National Beaver Forum, which will be one of the mechanisms for civil society to continue participating long-term in the return of beavers to the English landscape. 


Our multi-cultural team is made up of associate facilitators, policy advisors and environmental governance experts based in South America, Africa and the UK.

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