Borderers to be consulted over lynx plans, pledges minister

A Eurasian lynx.
A Eurasian lynx.

UK Government Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Michael Gove has promised to consult Borderers over the plans to release lynx in Kielder Forest.

The cabinet minister has offered that assurance in response to a question in the House of Commons last week from Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP John Lamont.

Michael Gove.

Michael Gove.

Mr Gove told Parliament: “I had the opportunity of visiting his constituency in a private capacity in August in order to fish on the Tweed, and I had the opportunity while I was there to hear from his constituents about their concerns about the reintroduction of lynx.

“I will, of course, ensure that before any progress towards such a reintroduction taking place that we take full account of the views of the views of his constituents.”

Conservation charity the Lynx UK Trust submitted an application to Natural England in July for permission to release six of the medium-sized wildcats in the Northumbrian forest, just south of the Scottish border, for a five-year trial period.

Scottish Borders Council has not yet been consulted on the proposals but has discussed them with Scottish Natural Heritage.

Mr Lamont welcomed Mr Gove’s promise to consult north of the border, saying: “I was reassured by the Environment Secretary’s response today that the council and local residents in the Borders will be consulted on these plans.

“The application for the licence to release lynx at Kielder will be considered by Natural England, but clearly there are cross-border implications.

“I know that some farmers are concerned about the impact of the reintroduction of these large predators on their livestock. It is important that everyone who might be affected by the reintroduction of lynx in Kielder gets to air their views.”

The plans to bring back the Eurasian lynx, extinct in Britain since the Middle Ages, have also been raised in the House of Lords by Baron Steel of Aikwood, the former Liberal Party leader David Steel.

The Selkirk-based peer asked what talks had been held with the Scottish Government and was told by Baron Gardiner of Kimble: “Natural England has set up a regulators’ group involving officials from the Scottish Government, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Forestry Commission and the Animal and Plant Health Agency.

“The group has met and discussed the application and will continue to liaise regularly.”