Friday, 10 October 2014

What the GWCT thinks of Defra's statement on their hen harrier recovery plan

Photo: Laurie Campbell
by Andrew Gilruth - @AndrewGilruth 

Defra has provided a 300 word response to the e-petition asking for the publication of their hen harrier recovery plan. What does it tell us? A great deal. Defra could have just said “we are continuing to look at it”. The fact they provided such a clear and positive response should be welcomed by all those that signed the e-petition (and others interested in the recovery of the hen harrier population).

My observations are:

1) Defra are still working hard on their plan – “seeking final agreement”. Sounds good to me.
2) Defra are clearly focused on the outcome – recognising the plan will need to be “pragmatic”.

Tellingly they recognise:

a) Urgent action is required: the English”…hen harrier populations are so low that recovery across their former range is unlikely to occur unaided”. We can no longer just sit and talk. A plan ready to be put in place before the next breeding season is significant

b) Additional targeted action required: “the Government considers that hen harriers merit additional action to reverse the decline in their population numbers”. Actions that have not yet been used in England will be required? Let’s hope so because Langholm Moor indicates we will need to do just that. After 7 years of diversionary feeding there is still no grouse shooting.

c) Pragmatic solution is needed: “since the Sub-Group members all have a role to play in delivering the suite of actions, it is important to secure as much agreement as possible before publication so that it can be implemented in the co-operative and pragmatic way needed to help the recovery of the hen harrier in England”.

d) Secure as much agreement as possible: Sounds, to me, like the Defra team are quite clear about what they want to do with their plan. Defra are not saying they will wait for everyone to sign up to every detail. Fair enough. This recent survey indicates 67% of RSPB members (a good proxy for those passionate about birds) support translocation (7% opposed). 

The Defra statement indicates the publication of the Defra-led hen harrier recovery plan may be closer than we all think.

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1 comment:

  1. Of course this is all predicated on the cessation of human persecution of hen harriers that then allows an increase in numbers of harriers to be translocated. I wonder how the owners and managers of land for grouse shooting suddenly can deliver this safety from persecution? It seems morally repugnant to trumpet a plan for conservation of a protected species and criticise others for not rushing to sign up to it, based as it is on a threat of continued criminal activity. And of course this does not address the continued persecution of other birds of prey that pose a threat to grouse. What about them? That said, it seems we are left with little choice if we are ever to return to any semblance of true bio-diversity across much of our moorland. 70 (seventy) breeding pairs of hen harriers across England's uplands must be better than the current 4 this year and none last year. Still, we also have a crumb of comfort in that our fox and crow populations are kept in rude health by the 40M (million) pheasants released into the countryside every year. This bio-diversity lark is really complicated!