Natural England’s Failure – The Truth, Nothing but the Truth!

[singlepic id=127w=177 h=177 float=left]The reason Natural England decided to revoke licenses this year issued to the members of the North West Raptor Protection Group used to monitor peregrine nests on the United Utilities estate in the Forest of Bowland is unjustified and very disturbing.

There is no doubt this initiative has been introduced to stop further embarrassment caused by the group’s excellent field work. Because the group would not sign the confidentiality clause contained within the United Utilities Field protocol, group members were free to place details of nest failures resulting from the disappearance of eggs and chicks contained in numerous nests on company estates into the public domain, much to the annoyance of United Utilities and the RSPB, who preferred to keep this information secret. You scratch my back, I will scratch yours arrangement, forget about principles, think instead of the money.

Restrictive license condition designed to appease landowners by concealing the persecution of raptors taking place on their estates in Bowland are nothing new to members of the North West Raptor Protection Group. In the 1990’s after the NWRPG had reported wide scale hen harrier and peregrine persecution taking place on one of the region’s prestigious shooting estates to English Nature (Natural England) the Governments Statutory Wildlife Advisor, the group’s scientific licence conditions were amended excluding their further use throughout this particular area of heather moorland, thus permitting the status quo and persecution of protected raptors to continue. In the instance described above, the Licensing Authority with statutory responsibilities for the protection of flora and fauna in England was acting with complicity undermining efforts to protect raptors by assisting the landowner conceal such criminal activity. Throughout the period this condition applied, no less than 8 nesting pairs of harriers disappeared from this estate; not something Natural England would like the public to know about.

Once again here we have history repeating itself and it would appear lessons have not been learned. The North West Raptor Protection Group have undoubtedly acted responsibly here, reporting the facts of what group members had uncovered within their annual licence returns they are required to submit to Natural England each year.

I have no doubt whatsoever, because the truthful details being uncovered by the local raptor group have caused more than a little embarrassment to both the RSPB and United Utilities, Natural England took a political decision rather than a pragmatic approach to resolve this issue, get rid of the messenger instead.

Curiously to justify the removal of licenses held by the NWRPG for over three decades Natural England are now claiming this has been done to reduce the number of visits to nests in the area. It seems to me that based upon the high incidence of nest failures and robberies taking place on the United Utilities estate these days more not less experienced help would come in extremely useful, but I guess Natural England know what they are doing.

Many years ago Dr Derek Ratcliffe the former Nature Conservancy Council’s Chief Scientist, the fore runner of Natural England, said he believed Scientific Disturbance licenses would in his view be used to settle old scores and therefore were a bad thing.

If Dr Ratcliffe was alive today he would be ashamed at the way licenses are being abused by Natural England, for one thing providing a licensed monopoly in specific regions of England like the Forest of Bowland for the benefit of NGO’s like the RSPB. One must ask is this a good thing, does it help protect the birds, well of course not because while the RSPB’s presence in Bowland is financially supported by United Utilities the society will remain silent about the persecution of raptors taking place on company estates.

In 2009 the RSPB hen harrier warden left his post following the suspicious deaths of 3 hen harriers on the UU estate, a replacement contract warden was appointed in 2010. The RSPB acting on behalf of Natural England immediately supplied the new warden with a license to disturb hen harriers (a critically endangered species) at the nest. Significantly the individual appointed had never seen a hen harrier before let alone ever been permitted to visit a harrier nest. So the question must be asked, why are Natural England preventing experienced raptor workers from protecting threatened nests by withdrawing their licenses?

I have just been reminded of one additional very important fact, in the early 1980’s field work undertaken on the United Utilities estates by the NWRPG uncovered wide scale raptor persecution taking place. This criminal activity was reported to the Government’s Wildlife Advisor and the RSPB. Shortly after these revelations were highlighted by the NWRPG in a TV documentary the RSPB moved into Bowland providing a full-time regional officer to over see the RSPB’s involvement. So this is the final reward for bringing all this criminal activity to the notice of Natural England, RSPB and the public. The only word I can conjure up to describe these events is  SCANDALOUS.

5 comments to Natural England’s Failure – The Truth, Nothing but the Truth!

  • Dave

    A sinister development

  • nirofo

    As I have said previously the NWRPG need to contact their local Member of Parliament and the local papers with this information, make sure Natural England and the RSPB know they are going to do this, they have nothing to lose.

    Bear in mind they still have access to all these areas under the freedom to roam act, even if they can’t go directly to the nest sites they can still observe what’s going on at them from a distance and report any misdoings to the press or whoever can make the most from the information. Don’t let Natural England and the RSPB get away with it.


  • paul williams

    I have been informed there is a new civilian wildlife crime volunteer for Lancashire, his name is Mark Thomas.
    I would like to ask if he is related to Duncan Thomas?

  • paul williams

    Wide scale persecution accepted and acknowledge by those of influence or the colour of MONEY

  • steve yandall

    All you write falls in line with our experience of Natural England in the SW.We (Save Penwith Moors)drew attention to NE’s failure to adhere to the Aarhus Convention/Disability Dis.Act etc etc.

    This has reached ministerial level with ABSOLUTELY no action. NE tried to influence our MP,fenced off land which was not under their HLS remit and failed to remediate archaeological damage caused by their agenda but still no action! We gained a Parliamentary Ombudsman decision to satisfy our demands but have had to return to the PO as NE failed to satisfy anything but their own needs.

    Yours is the worst indictment of our ‘stewards’ that I have yet heard BUT the best justification to challenge and change culpable organisations.