New future for Hen Harriers in Yorkshire?

Yorkshire Water Plc own approximately 32,000 hectares of land (80,000 acres) making this water utility company one of the region’s largest landowners. Their estate covers the whole of Yorkshire but is predominantly located on the eastern flanks of the Pennines and in Nidderdale.

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Much of their land is used to collect the raw water they treat for drinking and is tenanted by farmers as well as being used for recreation by their customers and other members of the public.

They seek to be exemplar landowners and landlords working with a wide range of stakeholders so one key project is to get 12,000 hectares of their property designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI’s) most of which is Red Grouse moors in a “favourable” or “recovering” condition. This is an ongoing project but 99.9% of the SSSI sites already managed and owned by Yorkshire Water are currently in this condition, over-achieving their target of 95% by the end of 2010.

So if this is correct the Company must already have breeding Hen Harrier and Peregrine on the moorland they own!! Interesting, no one has so far highlighted this important detail to Natural England’s Scientists tasked with protecting Hen Harriers in England.

Following the privatisation in 1989 of England’s water industry, unlike other private estate owners, Yorkshire Water Plc were given statutory responsibilities under the 1989 Water Act to conserve and protect both Fauna and Flora throughout their catchments. It will be very interesting if under Dr Phillip’s new leadership if Yorkshire Water is able to manage their Hen Harriers and Peregrines when they begin to turn up better than Natural England have so far managed to do in the rest of England under the leadership of their former Chief Executive.

Paul Christensen, Chair of Natural England, said: “Helen has been a transformational leader for Natural England, creating the new organisation, improving efficiency, building our customer service culture and securing a series of important environmental outcomes.” Sadly Mr. Christensen omitted to mention the total disaster of Natural England’s Hen Harrier Recovery Project which was funded by hundreds of thousands of pounds provided by the tax payer  under the leadership of Dr. Phillips. The other problem for Natural England’s former Chief Executive is something she would rather forget, there are less hen harriers now on England’s uplands than when the project was first rolled out a decade ago. However Dr. Phillips did leave a lasting legacy she will be remembered for, before she left Natural England she thanked the gamekeepers [as we know the very people responsible for the current demise of England’s hen harrier] for a job well done maintaining the biodiversity of our countryside.

Mr Christensen continued: “Helen will leave behind an organisation that has adapted to the new government’s priorities for its Arm’s Length Bodies, and whose record of delivery enables Natural England to face the future with confidence.”

“Under her leadership, Natural England has made its evidence accessible, notably through the publication of the State of the Natural Environment Report, increased to 70% the amount of farmland in Environmental Stewardship, prioritised support for the government’s Natural Environment White Paper and the new England Biodiversity Strategy and achieved favourable and recovering condition for over 95% of England’s most important wildlife sites.” What a pity hen harriers could not be a part of Natural England’s new England Biodiversity Strategy outlined above. What is the point of achieving favourable habitat conditions on England’s most important wildlife sites if such iconic species like hen harrier and peregrine continue to be excluded by persection?

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Raptor Politics also feels it is significant Mr. Christensen also forgot to mention hen harriers are notably absent upon 99.9% of  moorlands designated SSSi’s throughout England’s northern uplands today. So much for maintaining a healthy biodiversity in these very important moorland habitat regions. No browny point there then for Natural England.

Helen Phillips said: “The last five years have been the most challenging and fulfilling of my professional life, in which I’ve had the privilege of working with dedicated and talented people to make a difference for the natural environment. I am proud of what we have achieved together and will move to Yorkshire Water confident in the knowledge that Natural England is well positioned for the future.”

Richard Benyon, Minister for the Natural Environment and Fisheries at Defra, said: “Under Helen’s leadership over the last five years Natural England has made a real difference to our environment. I wish her all the best in her new role.”

The Natural England Board will meet to discuss the process by which Helen’s successor will be appointed.

9 comments to New future for Hen Harriers in Yorkshire?

  • John Miles

    Could this open the door for the RSPB to establish a reserve on this land!

    • Ann Cardwell

      I doubt if the RSPB would consider this opportunity as it could cause considerable embarrassment it their presence resulted once again in no hen harriers. Take Geltsdale here in the Pennines as an example. The RSPB purchased the moor as a protected reserve for hen harriers; since 2006 the hen harrier has not been allowed to breed at Geltsdale because of persecution by neighbouring gamekeepers. Peregrines and the single pair of eagle owls received similar treatment. There is also a distinct possibility the few breeding pairs of harriers which remain on the United Utilities estate which are managed by the RSPB will go the same way. The RSPB would not wish is to be seen as part of another high profile failure.

      • Andy D

        If the HH has not been allowed to bread at Geltsdale because of alleged persecution by neighbouring gamekeepers why are said gamekeepers not being prosecuted, unless there is an ongoing case you have no knowledge about?

  • paul williams

    I have contacted 4 of my childhood friends to help Dr Phillips in her quest to introduce Peregrines and Hen Harriers to Yorkshire Water’s Estates…yes,introduce! because you cannot sustain what is not there! My friends are Superman, Batman,Green Lantern and Captain America. If this fails Dr Phillips you could always hold out the olive branch and contact Mr Terry Pickford along with the members of North West Raptor Protection Group for their expert advise and assistance.

    • nirofo

      If it wasn’t for the persistant Raptor persecution there would be no need to introduce Harriers and Peregrines, (I’ll not ask how?), they would take up any existing but unoccupied territories (of which there are many), without any assistance. Stop the persecution and the Raptors will come back on their own, introducing these birds into known persecution areas is just asking for them to be killed. Clear up the persecution first and the introductions will take care of themselves !!!

  • John Miles

    May be all the people that have so far signed the e-petition should consider applying for Helen’s job as we can not be seen to do a worse job!!

  • paul williams

    To prosecute, firstly you need to be caught…simple

  • paul williams Birdwatchers are responsible for the demise of the Hen Harrier in the Forest of Bowland says Kirsty, undercover operation in Bowland.

  • paul williams

    Check this out on name and shame them site, they show a picture of nesting hen harriers which is being used to convince the British public they must buy UK produced hen eggs….lmao

    Member of the European Parliement: Buy British eggs to protect animal welfare | Scotland | STV News…/292030-mep-buy-british-eggs-to-protect-animal-welfare/

    Only UK-produced eggs can guarantee that hens were not kept in illegal cages, says Scottish Lib Dem MEP.