Hen_Harrier_246In rejecting the full publication of the Hen Harrier Joint Action Plan, the RSPB has reinforced the view that it is motivated more by a dislike of grouse shooting than by a concern for hen harriers. The Countryside Alliance once again calls on Defra to publish the plan in full.

The Countryside Alliance supports the Hen Harrier Joint Action Plan and has been campaigning for it to be published and implemented for many months now, in conjunction with other bodies including the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust. 

However on its website today the RSPB has posted: “The RSPB is today urging Defra to publish the workable elements of the Hen Harrier Action Plan, which we believe could bring about the recovery of one of England’s most beleaguered birds of prey. However, we’re also highlighting its rejection of one point of the six-point plan, known as brood management, as we believe that immediate removal of chicks from the wild and rearing them in aviaries is unacceptable and legally ambiguous.”

Adrian Blackmore director of shooting for the Countryside Alliance said: “There is a genuine, acknowledged conflict between hen harriers and grouse moors, and we need to find a way to sustainably rebuild hen harrier populations. The underlying principle of any way forward must be the co-existence of hen harrier populations and economically viable driven grouse moors, given the importance of the latter to conservation, the environment, the rural economy, and local communities.

“Brood management is a management tool that is used by the RSPB for other species and the society’s objection to it for hen harriers is particularly illogical in the light of the successful reintroduction of other species, such as the red kite and white-tailed eagle using just such techniques.

“To claim that brood management is contentious also ignores the results of an independent poll which showed that 67% of RSPB donors supported translocation, even when they knew it was being carried out on grouse moors by gamekeepers.

“Blocking the publication of that part of the Joint Recovery Plan, a plan that could really improve the conservation status of the hen harrier in England would suggest, again, that the RSPB is motivated more by a dislike of grouse shooting, than it is by a concern for hen harriers. This plan needs to be agreed in its entirety or it will not be successful.”

For more information, contact Countryside Alliance head of media Charlotte Cooper on 0207 8409220 and 07500 834163 or email [email protected]

Notes for Journalists:

The Joint Raptor Study at Langholm Moor between 1992 and 1997 measured the impact of uncontrolled hen harriers breeding on a viable grouse moor. This saw hen harrier numbers rise from two pairs to 20 pairs in six years, at which point shooting had to be abandoned due to the hen harriers taking over a third of all grouse chicks that hatched. With no grouse shooting, the local culture, economy and employment suffered, and the control of generalist predators by gamekeepers became economically unviable.

A subsequent study carried out by the GWCT at Langholm between 1999 and 2006 found that the numbers of golden plover, curlew, red grouse, and skylark were two to three times lower than when the moor had been managed for grouse shooting, and that Lapwings had been virtually lost since keepering stopped. Hen Harrier numbers also went from a high of 20 in 1997, when the moor had been keepered, to only 4 in 2006, due to increasing fox predation, and dwindling food supply. In contrast, the number of carrion crow, a common predator species controlled on most grouse moors because of the eggs and chicks that they take, increased four-fold following the end of keepering. The moor forms part of an EU Natura SPA site, and is now failing to meet its biodiversity targets.

Although diversionary feeding can reduce predation when harrier numbers are low and their nests are easily accessible, this new type of management tool on its own has not been seen to increase numbers of young grouse. Conservation techniques such as brood management will also therefore be required to resolve the conflict.

A link to our polling showing support amongst RSPB members for translocation is here: http://www.countryside-alliance.org/ca/campaigns-shooting/67-of-rspb-donors-support-translocation