Raptor Politics – how licenses are being manipulated to undermine raptor conservation in Bowland.

Recent comments made by one Raptor Politics contributor suggests their has been no evidence of a conspiracy to remove licenses held by the local raptor group working within Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland this year. This is my reasoned reply to all sceptics, who despite the evidence  posted on this website to the contrary, just goes to show of course some individuals will never believe or accept the facts.

When making any claims it is vitally important to get all the facts correct. No one has ever suggested the BTO has been involved in a conspiracy to restrict or remove peregrine or hen harrier licenses from North West Raptor Protection Group members. The BTO were issued with precise instructions by Natural England to do this because in Natural England’s view, even though the local raptor group have been undertaking this work in the region for over 40 years, they claimed group members were duplicating nest visits undertaken by other field workers. It is important to point out some of the individuals licenced to work on access moorland owned by United Utilities currently were not even born when the NWRPG first began their work in the region. I would argue therefore the work these people are now undertaking is duplicating the work previously undertaken by the NWRPG and not the other way around.  

Under the Freedom of Information Act Natural England were asked to provide precise details of all duplicate nest visits to peregrine nests undertaken by members of the NWRPG last year, Natural England replied by admitting they did not have this detail, proving the point licenses were removed  for other reasons.

The BTO have been very supportive towards the NWRPG issuing a number of licenses this year to our members covering several Schedule 1 species for use in the Forest of Bowland. The BTO have also issued additional licenses to group members for Schedule 1 species for use throughout Cumbria. So perhaps it is important to stop and think, why would Natural England exclude licenses for just two species for use by the local raptor group upon a single estate owned by United Utilities? I am sorry if anyone disagrees but the facts speak for themselves, the exposure by the NWRPG of persecuted Schedule 1 raptor nests taking place on this single estate has been very embarrassing for the credibility of this water utility company and it’s share holders including myself a share holder since 1989. In my opinion United Utilities would rather like to keep this important and damaging detail under wraps. This is why approved licence holders working on this estate are obliged to sign a confidentiality contract before being provided with any licenses. The NWRPG would not agree to this unreasonable request as we had always felt it was important to inform the public about all criminal activity affecting protected birds of prey in this region, including moorland owned by United Utilities.

I will say one thing the Licensing Authority are consistent in their treatment of the membership of the NWRPG when it comes to issuing licenses. In the 1980’s after the NWRPG reported the disappearance of no less than 12 breeding pairs of harriers and the destruction of several pairs of peregrines upon a separate Bowland estate, Natural England’s predecessor once again revoked licenses held by the group for use on this additional shooting estate after the landowner made a complaint. I will leave it up to the readers of this page to decide who’s actions resulted in more long-term harm to raptors as a result of this decision. 

One last piece of information everyone may like to share. For ten years the NWRPG have been pleading with United Utilities to investigate the mysterious low productivity of several peregrine territories upon their Bowland estates. Despite numerous representations made to the company estate manager requesting he should take on board our concerns, the consistent failure of clutches of eggs which did not hatch, the mysterious disappearance of chicks from these eyries was dismissed remaining unchanged since 2000 until now. Curiously this year one peregrine territory with a particular poor history of failure and missing chicks successfully managed to rear two chicks this year; some would argue I am sure this was just coincidental but was it?

Terry R.Pickford

North West Raptor Protection Group.

Share Holder United Utilities PLc.





6 comments to Raptor Politics – how licenses are being manipulated to undermine raptor conservation in Bowland.

  • nirofo

    It’s a conspiracy that hopefully will come back on them one day and bite them on the arse! Meanwhile the only losers are the Raptors who will continue to be persecuted by gamekeepers and harrassed by bumbling inexperienced RSPB field workers and other so-called professional conservation bodies ???

    The NWRPG are in a strong position now that they are not constrained by the limitations of their licences and are able to excersise their freedom to roam rights. They can and should observe the nesting areas from any convenient track that doesn’t encroach within the disputed nesting territory, telescopes are great for seeing what people are doing from a distance, make it so bad for them that they are continually looking over their shoulder to see who’s watching them. They should report any misdoings they observe both on this forum and in the media/press, talk to the local MP, give him the full details; play them at their own game and show them up for what they are.



    • Pat Young

      Nirofo, could not agree more with your truthful comments. However reporting the bad practices of licenced workers last year including the Chair of the Northern England Raptor Forum for keeping a pair of nesting falcons off their nest for a minimum of 120 minutes was ignored and the two witnesses who reported to NE what they had observed were never inteviewed. This together with several other reported incidents of poor field practice which I have read about on this web web site appear to have been additional contributing factors behind NE removal of licenses for use on the UU estates this year by the NWRPG. I am sure if the boot had been on the other foot and any member of the NWRPG had been reported for poor field practice the member concerned would have lost any entitlement to licenses for ever, and rightly so in my book.

      • nirofo

        Reporting bad practice/incidents to Natural England was the furthest from my mind, they should be bypassed altogether as it’s obvious where their true loyalty lies. The reports of any and all cases of bad practice or incidents should be forwarded directly to the local press and any other media who may be interested, with copies direct to the local MP for the area. Every incident, report it.



  • tom

    The persecution of birds of prey on grouse moors has resulted in an extinction of these species on 98% of heather moorlands in Northern England. A large proportion of these moorland regions are designated as SPA’s and or SSSI’s. Contrary to what Natural England’s Chief Executive recently claimed, rather than enhancing and improving the biodiversity of wildlife within these regions bad planning decisions made by Natural England has resulted in their ruin.

    Time after time I have witnessed first hand shooting tracks approved by Natural England driven through and across prime heather habitats without any regard for the wildlife which were once common within these important upland ecosystems. A very good example of what I am talking about has taken place at Tarnbrook, a part of the Abbeystead estate in Lancashire. Less than a quarter of a century ago, nesting merlin, peregrine, short-eared owl and at least two pairs of hen harriers regularly inhabited this remote moorland. If you walk along Tarnbrook’s miles of approved estate tracks today all you hear and see are red grouse and estate landrovers crossing the moor from one end to the other every day. Nesting birds of prey, irrespective of species, do not have a hope in hell of ever returning to heather moorlands such as Tarnbrook thanks to Natural England’s poor planning decisions.

    While I am on my high horse may I say to Natural England another bad planning decision was the removal of licenses from experiences field workers in the Forest of Bowland this year. With persecution on the increase on all red grouse moorland in England, don’t you realise your illogical decision will undermine any chance of preserving dwindling numbers of birds of prey that remain on shooting estates in Bowland. A birdwatcher advised me recently, one reason there are any harriers and peregrines in Bowland at all is thanks in no small part to work undertaken by the local raptor group in this area. It seems Bowland gamekeepers fear the local raptor group more than they do the RSPB or police.

  • skydancer

    Nirofo, your comments are spot on, let me just tell you that reports of bad practice have been handed to two members of parliament by the NWRPG by way of face to face meeting at constituency offices, the matter is now being referred to the Parliamentary Ombudsman.

    • nirofo

      Skydancer, great to hear action is being taken to combat this heinous plot by Natural England, lets hope the MP’s in question have the balls to do something about it and don’t let it drop. However, having long experience of how NE and similar work I wouldn’t mind betting they come out of it unscathed if not smelling of roses