You really couldn't make it up. After years of debate and planning, a five year "Scottish Beaver Trial" run by government agencies to reintroduce beavers to the Knapdale Forest in a remote corner of Argyll has taken place amid considerable controversy. Yet at the same time stories began to emerge of a colony of "illegal" or "wild" or "Tayside" beavers that had somehow re-established itself far to the north east, in Perthshire. Beavers are the animal kingdom's answer to Marmite: it seems you either love them or hate them. On the one hand they are a once-native species that was hunted into extinction in Scotland (and elsewhere in the British Isles) centuries ago for their fur. On the other they stand accused, especially in Perthshire, of "causing devastation to agricultural land", and are said to cause widespread and often wanton destruction to trees and disruption to the natural flow of water courses.
Jim Crumley is an author whose sublime writing has shone light into many corners of the animal world, and on parts of Scotland and, in particular, its mountains. In "Nature's Architect: The Beaver's Return to Our Wild Landscapes", he turns his attention to the beaver. The result is a genuinely important book that should be read by anyone who has any interest in the return of the beaver to Scotland's landscape. At one level, of course, that means everyone who lives in Scotland or visits it, but mainly it means all those who have views, either for or against, the permanent reintroduction of the species. Having said that, this is a book that will probably find more admirers amongst those in favour of the beaver than amongst those whose minds are already made up against it.
Beautifully written (of course), superbly researched (of course), and convincingly argued, what emerges is a manifesto written on behalf of the beaver. There are many, doubtless including some who view the idea of reintroducing extinct species to be a good thing in principle, who feel that the beaver may be a reintroduction too far. After all, the animals have the temerity to alter the landscape around them, something we humans tend to believe is a right that should be exclusively ours, for better or for worse. Jim Crumley addresses the legitimate fears and concerns of landowners and others as he weighs the arguments and his conclusion, in favour of the beaver, is one we find entirely compelling.