Knapdale Forest, between Lorn and Kintyre, has been chosen as a possible site for the trial reintroduction of the European beaver to Scotland.
If the move goes ahead, 12 radio-tagged European beavers will be released there in the spring of 2002, after arriving in Scotland for quarantine late next summer.
Three beavers are housed in secure accommodation in a wildlife park in Perthshire. The Knapdale site would become the first area of the country since 1600 to become a natural home for the creatures, hunted out for their pelts and scent glands.
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and Forest Enterprise, who manage the earmarked site, are to meet local interested parties to discuss the proposal for the trial, which would cost £400,000.
A spokesman for SNH said the plan would go ahead only if there were community support for the project, which would include an impact study.
The field trial would run for five years. If it were decided that the species should not be reintroduced to Scotland, the project would end and the animals be removed.
Dr Colin Galbraith, head of SNH's advisory services, said: "We think the presence of the beavers will help raise the profile of Knapdale throughout the country.
"We hope that, over time, the beavers can do for Knapdale what ospreys did for Speyside."
The benefits of reintroducing beaver centre on the fact they are great waterway engineers. They would create more habitat diversity around rivers and lochs which would, in turn, lead to more biodiversity.
They would help purify water systems by reducing sediment loads and slowing water flow; control flooding by slowing water flow downstream and preserve and renew wetland ecosystems.
The move to place the creatures at Knapdale Forest follows a feasibility study which SNH carried out to judge whether the project was biologically and ecologically feasible.
An SNH spokesman said: "We then looked at desirability of reintroducing the species. A widespread consultation exercise took place in 1998. The results showed overwhelming public support for a reintroduction.
"Overall, 86% of 1,944 written responses received by SNH were in favour of the proposal.
"A further opinion survey of 2,141 members of the public indicated that 63% of the general public supported a re-introduction, 25% had no view and only 12% were against."
Concerns raised included fears that beaver, although they are vegetarian, might interfere with salmon numbers and might cause land flooding problems.
The spokesman added: "Mindful of the concerns which had been raised in some submissions to the consultation, SNH decided that the most appropriate course of action was to undertake a trial reintroduction in which information could be collected under controlled and systematic conditions."
To minimise any effects in the wider area, the animals would be kept to a core area of Knapdale Forest.
A drop-in day is being organised in the Knapdale area next month to allow local people to view an exhibition about the project and to ask questions.
If there is local support, the final proposals will be put to the Scottish Executive by the end of the year, seeking permission for the trial.