Grasping the nettle at last……but with gloves on!!

Recent days has seen the promotion of different initiatives variously aimed at improving biodiversity in the Scottish landscape and the Peak District National Park in England and generally providing a framework within which “conflicts between different interests can be resolved”. So far so good one could say and, in fact, I’m actually impressed because something, finally, is happening to confront the deplorable situation relating to raptor persecution.

In Scotland the “Wildlife Estates Scotland Initiative”, WES for short, has been launched. It’s actually been around since late 2010 when it was hurriedly cobbled together by furious landowners in a knee jerk reaction to the possibility of licensing being proposed for Scottish shooting estates. The scheme is intended to show they can be both trustworthy and effective acting under the banner of self-regulation and that biodiversity, the rural Scottish economy, habitat management practices and the usual raft of positive outcomes will result. The initiative has gained the support of the Environment Minister, MSP Stewart Stevenson and we are told that over 200 estates and farms have already signed up, although the list of participants is not yet available. All very laudable stuff, particularly when linked to an objective buried within their declared list of standards that all aspects of wildlife legislation will be upheld. The overriding intention would seem to be to provide ” a framework within which new initiatives designed to resolve conflicts between different interests and species, can operate”.

Well done, chaps, we’ll see how it goes. BUT it’s hoped that perhaps you might actually mention raptor persecution from time to time, even have a declared policy on it so members of the public are left in no doubt as to your position. Oblique references to intended good behaviour aren’t enough I’m afraid. Grasp the nettle and stand up for a squeaky clean operation throughout Scotland that also does deliver biodiversity and improves landscape quality and economic benefits at the same time. May I ask that your organization condemns the actions of those who step across the line and break any aspect of wildlife law, so that we all then know you really mean business. And what of those who we know have committed such crimes, is there a policy wherein they are debarred membership or is a conversion process to be offered? A real grasping of the nettle!

I sincerely hope it works, as I’ve long suggested that there needs to be action “from within”. Time will tell!

Southwards to the Peak National Park and we see an initiative aimed at improving the status of certain birds of prey ( Merlin, Peregrine and Short-eared Owl ). The whole is overseen by a group comprising the National Park, the Moorland Association, RSPB and the National Trust. Now it’s more than ten years ago since the area was within my “Regional RSPB bailiwick”, but in the twenty years previous to that immense effort had been put into maintaining the Northern Goshawk population within the Peak and fighting (usually) rearguard actions relating to Hen Harriers. While I would again wish the scheme well, I’m genuinely,utterly perplexed that no commitment has been issued towards the above species. Northern Goshawk has all but been wiped out in the Peak and a number of high profile cases relating to its persecution have occurred over the years, so why no mention? A declared intention to include Hen Harrier in the efforts to be made would have also seemed logical, rather than give an undertaking that it will be dealt with in a similar initiative intended for the SW Peak. Whilst odd breeding attempts have centred on that area what is the justification in only considering that part of the Park? There’s endless hectares of suitable habitat for the species in the Peak, so why not have a Park-wide policy to try and improve things? The declared intention to have a ” more harmonious future” smacks of politics and nettles to me!!

Finally may I draw your attention to a new blog, ” Standing up for Nature”, being issued by Mark Avery. Until recently Mark had been the Director of Conservation ,RSPB , but he has decided to go independent, with recent outpourings suggesting this could be a good thing! He’s a good bloke for whom I’ve a great deal of admiration, mainly because he speaks his mind ( he could even be a Yorkshireman, we’ll perhaps offer Honorary status!! ). In a recent Blog entry he criticises Simon Jenkins, Chairman of the National Trust and labels him a raptor hater based on comments made within his writings, where he describes raptors as “avian terrorists”. Notwithstanding the fact that the National Trust has declared policies linked to wildlife management associated with its landholdings, such expressed opinions from the Chairman of a membership based organisation are surely ill conceived in many ways. Fabric of England , and all that, of which our natural heritage is as important a constituent member as is the built heritage and what it contains! But then be aware that , on one of their properties in the Peak Park, a gamekeeper of the National Trust’s tenant, ( himself a Purdey Award winner ), was prosecuted successfully on several counts for offences associated with wildlife legislation. Read, digest and consider! If the Chairman publicly condemns certain elements of our natural heritage, it’s hardly a good example to others!

By John S.Armiage, Islay Birder

1 comment to Grasping the nettle at last……but with gloves on!!

  • John Miles

    Regarding your last paragraph, if the gamekeeper appealed against his sentence quoting his chairman for his remarks against Birds of Prey would Jenkins then be taken for ‘aiding and abetting’ as the gamekeeper only acted due to his remarks! As for the rest its rubbish. None of the above want to protect Birds of Prey.