Environmental groups have expressed a concern that plans to reintroduce beavers to Scotland are being stalled.

Beavers are an indigenous species to the UK, but, by 1900, they had been hunted to extinction mainly for their fur. They are a semi-aquatic animal, and modify their environment to suit their own requirements, building lodges across waterways and bringing down trees.

Steve Stakey from the Scottish Wildlife Trust, said: ‘Beavers are one of Scotland’s missing species and fulfil a niche role in managing the landscape, which provides and improves habitats for manyother species.’

Among other benefits cited for bringing back beavers to Scotland has been potential for tourism. There are currently several successful guided beaver safaris in Brittany, Denmark, Poland and Sweden. However, landowners fear the destruction of their woodlands, and the modification of their waterways could cause considerable damage.

Jonathan Hall from the Scottish Landowners Federation explained that they see the project as not so much a reintroduction, but an introduction: ‘We are concerned that beavers would adversely affect the ecology and the hydrology of the area concerned, which has changed greatly since beavers lived in the UK.’

A spokesman for the Scottish Executive toldCountrylife.co.uk: ‘The application from Scottish National Heritage is complex, and offer legal, ecological and economic arguments in support of the reintroduction which commands detailed consultation by Ministers.’