There is substantial and widespread concern in the Borders over plans to release lynx into Kielder Forest.
The economic, environmental and social consequences of Lynx UK Trist’s project weere highlighted at a National Sheep Association (NSA) meeting, held in partnership with the British Deer Society (BDS) at St Boswells last week.
The meeting was organised in response to Lynx UK Trust announcing Kielder Forest as its preferred site for a trial release programme, and brought together some 10 organisations and many more individuals involved in farming, tourism, animal welfare, land management, field sports and conservation.
Phil Stocker, NSA chief executive, said: “The discussions led to us learning there is widespread concern over the implications of releasing lynx, and also concern over the way Lynx UK is going about its work. Very valid points were raised in areas of strong public interest that go way beyond the losses that will be suffered by sheep farmers.
“NSA has been very concerned the Lynx UK Trust would either orchestrate for its own, biased research to be used as the public consultation and/or apply to only one licencing body despite the proposed release site falling under the remit of both Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage.
“I now feel confident that NSA would be far from the only group opposed to those two things, and believe there is willingness within the Scottish and English licensing bodies to be communicating together.”
No formal application has yet been made for the pilot release, which NSA understands is being proposed for 10 animals in Kielder Forest, five of each sex. NSA has voiced its concerns to Lynx UK Trust, Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage, and will continue to oppose the proposals.
“NSA attended a Lynx UK Trust meeting in Kielder last week and was dismayed to see how the group was using its own consultation work and results interpretation to garner support for the proposals.
Lynx UK Trust say: “The Trust is made up of a group of expert feline conservationists with specialisations in areas such as wildlife reintroductions, field research, ecology, biology and genetics, determined to return a sustainable population to the UK over the next decade.”