A group whose bid for a trial reintroduction of lynx into Northumberland was rejected, has called for a meeting with the Secretary of State to discuss the decision.
Dr Paul O’Donoghue, chief scientific advisor with the Lynx UK Trust, wants to meet Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Natural England, following his decision to refuse an application for the trial reintroduction of six Eurasian lynx into Kielder Forest.
In a letter to Mr Gove, he writes: ‘It is a proven and evidenced fact across Europe that lynx can breathe life into our broken ecosystems: The ecological need for this project has been evidenced across a multitude of careers, studies and locations and it seems to me that this can only be further expanded or detailed by actually going ahead with a trial.
‘As a Secretary of State, you are in a privileged position to grant permission for a project that would benefit both the environment and the economy alike.
‘I would like to request a meeting with you and Natural England to further discuss the decision and the perspectives laid out above so that we can decide our next step; I, and all of the team at the Lynx UK Trust, remain as committed and determined as ever to see lynx given their chance to return, and a fair treatment in consideration of the evidenced benefits they will bring.’
The application for a licence was refused following advice from Natural England.
In a letter outlining his decision last month, Mr Gove said Natural England had concerns in a number of areas of the proposal, including how it would be funded and a reliance on volunteers.
He said the plan did not demonstrate sufficient local support for the project and the socio-economic benefits of the trial were unclear.
But in his response, Mr O’Donoghue said the project has attracted more than £2million worth of financial backing from a range of organisations, Lloyds of London would cover the compensation costs of possible lynx attacks on farm livestock and letters of support have been received from a range of local community sectors, including local businesses, particuarly those involved in tourism.
He says: ‘A trial reintroduction is extremely likely to bring phenomenal tourism and investment opportunities which the local community can embrace as it sees fit.’
Mr O’Donoghue adds: ‘For me, there is no better metaphor for the very real socio-economic need for this project than Kielder’s Primary school, which sits next to a derelict hotel, closed through lack of business.
‘What else can offer those children a career and a life in the community within which they grew up?’