NSA celebrates Defra rejection of lynx release application

Defra secretary Michael Gove has rejected Lynx UK Trust’s application to release lynx into a forest in Northumberland because it did not meet the necessary standards.

In a letter to Dr Paul O’Donoghue, chief scientific adviser at Lynx UK Trust, Mr Gove explained that he had decided not to grant a licence for the release of six Eurasian Lynx into Kielder Forest, following advice from Natural England.

“The proposal lacked the necessary depth and rigour to provide confidence it would succeed,” Mr Gove added.

See also: Farmers call Lynx Trust UK ‘deplorable’ over support claims

National Sheep Association (NSA) chief executive Phil Stocker has called the decision a victory for farmers, the ecology of the area, the rural community and the farming economy.

Natural England’s concerns

Mr Gove’s letter stated that Natural England had a number of concerns about the proposal, including its overall feasibility, a lack of clarity on how it would be funded, its reliance on volunteers, and the lack of formal partnerships or collaborations with other relevant organisations.

“Significantly, the proposal did not include an ecological impact assessment,” Mr Gove’s letter continued.

“As far as could be seen, major landowners and managers, including Forestry Commission England, were either engaged insufficiently or not at all.

“In addition, the proposal did not demonstrate sufficient local support for the project.”

Natural England also said it was not clear how the trial would provide evidence to enable a decision on a full reintroduction.

See also: Scotland is best UK location for lynx reintroduction, says ecologist

NSA reaction

The NSA has called this “the right decision” and shared its pleasure that Defra and Natural England had taken its comments on board.

“This announcement shows the effectiveness of our working with local farmers and community groups that share our concerns,” Mr Stocker said.

“The community in Kielder has really come together and with the support of NSA has hosted meetings and discussions to raise their concerns. The threat of the lynx against sheep was very real and we could not be happier that this isn’t a risk our members will have to face.”

The NFU said the decision would be be greeted as “an enormous relief to the farmers in the area”.