In addition to the recently ended Knapdale Scottish Beaver Trial and Paul Lister’s vision of bringing in wolf and bear to his Alladale Estate there is now a charity called Rewilding Britain interested in the reintroduction of lynx, beaver and wolf. Opposing these plans are, for instance, the Scottish Crofting Federation.
Usually I tend to side with ‘environmentalists’, but this is one of the cases where I’m more in favour of protecting the animal called ‘human’. I can understand the arguments for reintroduction, like Trees for Life hoping lynx might prevent wild deer from doing too much damage to young trees. I can understand the arguments against, like Ramblers Scotland being against the miles of fence envisioned for Alladale. But claiming that the lynx is somehow a “keystone species” for an environment from which it may have been absent for a thousand years is, to say the least, strange. (Also, in the words of the SCF’s charwoman, some areas perceived as ‘wild’ by city dwellers may be as spick and span as a town park in the eyes of those who live and work there.)
Because one important aspect of the debate is that reintroducing long-extinct species is somewhat similar to introducing new ones, as the environment itself has changed in the meantime. Like it or not, the roles have changed: the farmer is now the native species and the lynx the (potentially) invasive one.