ABSTRACT: Reintroduction of species is viewed as a conventional conservation tool across Europe. Yet, the reintroduction of a species into an area where it was formerly extinct in a country can involve considerable social and economic impacts. Effective national management strategies for European protected species must comply with the protection laid down in the Habitats or Birds Directives whilst, at the same time, addressing human socio-economic concerns. This case study on the Eurasian beaver (listed in Habitats Directive Annexes II and IV) examines the strict protection afforded to the beaver (Article 12) and the ways in which exceptions to that protection, or derogations (Article 16), may form part of national or regional species management strategies. Case studies from the Netherlands, Germany and Latvia illustrate conservation success but, at the same time, provide a cautionary tale about the management of a species with a well developed capacity for ecosystem engineering. What happens when a previously extinct or endangered species with the potential for impacts on human activities becomes abundant? While national law and policy makers must remain attentive to conservation concerns, ensuring the strict protection of the species, they must also be mindful of changes both in human political and socio-economic concerns and in the dynamic natural world. Twenty years on, is the protection afforded by the Habitats Directive suffi ciently pragmatic and fl exible to take account of changes in species conservation status and in the social, political and economic needs of Member States?