The main argument against doing this is that a family of beavers gets through about three hundred trees a year, they dam rivers, flood valleys and eat fish, including salmon: evidently strong practical grounds. I'm sure I wouldn't like a local valley to be beavered: have its trees turned to stumps, footpaths flooded. If I owned or fished a beat of river I'd obviously be particularly upset to lose not just the fish but the river itself.
This story brought to mind the insistence by planners in the Cotswolds' Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that barn conversions can't have proper chimneys. Instead of a solid, traditional stone-built chimney to vent all the lovely wood smoke produced by your cheap and ecological wood-burner, you have to have a shiny steel pipe. The rationale is that a steel pipe is more authentic as it's true to the original, functional purpose of the building.
At first sight these might seem very different projects but both are driven by a desire for authenticity, a desire to rectify some sort of Fall. In one case, it's to restore a species destroyed by man, to go back to a posited Eden - but one whose re-creation is destructive to the interests of people today. In the other, it's to preserve the functional integrity of a building - but it's a functionality that's now purely notional and historical, the usual smoke-venting appendage for a building that is now a dwelling being a chimney, not an ugly and incongruous steel pipe.
Neither project serves the purposes of the people living in the countryside today. Neither fits into an existing, living context whether it's the local ecology or the vernacular aesthetic. Indeed, both seem to be instances of academic enthusiasts going out of their way to say 'fuck you' to the sensibilities and interests of local inhabitants.
So rather than being authentic, they're founded on fantasies and affectations. The beaver isn't there to fill a gap in the ecology: the Highlands have managed perfectly well without it. The area isn't a whimsical playground for beavers; it's a place where people live and work. Thinking that you can make a barn stay true to its eighteenth century barn-ness by sticking a twenty-first century steel pipe on it is just silly. There's an exaggerated, antiquarian respect here that would elicit ridicule from the farmers who once used these barns (in fact, it does). The structure is four Cotswold stone walls and a roof, which was once used to store grain, and is now used to house people. It should be allowed to adapt, to continue to make the material history of the future.
Projects such as these represent nothing so much as a bizarre form of reaction: whilst striving for integrity, they result in a sort of studied, intellectualised Disneyfication. As such, it's far from being a brainless phenomenon: you have to be highly educated to justify this sort of rarefied bad taste and self-indulgence. Unfortunately, there's only one word for fakery and sentimentality of this kind, this straining for insubstantial effect. The word is kitsch. It may be carefully theorised and academically founded kitsch, but it's kitsch nonetheless, conservation kitsch.