Defra probably has one more bad decision left in it

Save_the_Hen_Harrier_largeGiven the dire (egregious, failing, risible, adrift) performance of the Defra Ministers who take our money to make the environment better it is to be hoped that they simply keep their heads down and fade away once the general election campaign starts in earnest.

Though I fear that it’s just possible that Defra has one bad decision left in it.  Rumours come and go over the fate of the non-joint, non-report on Hen Harrier recovery that is not agreed by the group that has been drafting it.  It is just possible that Defra will choose to publish the non-agreed and therefore non-joint, non-plan before the end of March just to get it off their plate, but more importantly for the ministers perhaps, to garner some rich supporters going into the general election campaign.

It is even possible that Defra might not tell the rest of the world about the plan, which has not been published and not been out for public consultation, but will ‘approve’ it anyway.  Given that Liz Truss was almost certainly told to keep Defra out of any further controversies in her tenure, either of these options would be most bizarre ones to adopt.

How many promises of funding for the Conservative Party might depend on Defra ‘doing the right thing, old chap’, I wonder? This is pure, or impure, speculation on my part but do read  (re-read, obviously) p 284 of Fighting for Birds for a corroborative anecdote.  My impression, perhaps wrong (of course), is that the grouse shooting industry is showing quite a liking for those UKIP chaps and the battle for support is a real issue for the Conservative Party. Votes, and money to campaign to get votes, will dominate everything over the next few months and if a bad decision for the country and for wildlife has to be made to get them, then don’t rule it out. We will see.

From the politicians point of view, they can promise anything now in the knowledge of two important pieces of information. First, that they (either personally or in terms of their party’s standing) might not be in power on 8 May and therefore may never be called upon to deliver, but by then the support and money will be in the bag. Second, they would face legal action if they broke the provisions of the Birds Directive and could always say that they did their best.

Just remember, that there were four pairs of Hen Harriers nesting in England this year and that the Brood Management Scheme on the (or under the?) table would have resulted in one of those pairs being ‘managed’!  Four pairs is too many for England’s 147 grouse moors to cope with apparently.  The current science (which may change, we hear, but not very dramatically) says there should be 330+ pairs of Hen harrier in England if they weren’t bumped off illegally by grouse shooting interests.  But four is too many for the grouse shooting industry who are piling the pressure on Defra.






21 Replies to “Defra probably has one more bad decision left in it”

  1. Be careful with the ‘doing the right thing, old chap’ Mark.

    You’re suggesting this is a class issue, which it isn’t.

  2. And in the event that the Plan is issued ( hardly approved! ) then we know what the first E-petition should be in late May, 2015 accompanying direct lobbying for the matter to be overturned!

    So , what is it if it isn’t a class issue? The wishes of an elite, wealthy minority to pursue their own selfish activities at variance to the apparent wishes of a great many people within the electorate and, in the process, attempting to eliminate an iconic member of our wildlife heritage ( Hen Harrier ), a situation which would get worse and be extended further if they are allowed to have their wishes? I think it’s about time we stopped mincing words and accused the Establishment of what they are actually contriving to achieve!

    1. I am ex-public school and an ex-shot. I am now vehemently anti-shooting.

      It has nothing to do class. It is about the shooting community as a whole and the government.

        1. I agree – nothing classy whatsoever about the indivuals who think it necessary or acceptable to remove predators or “pests” from ecosystems to fulfill their selfish ideals.

  3. Good blog Mark, I think you read the situation regarding Defra very well. JFK said that “wisdom requires the long view”, and I am sorry to say Defra does not seem to have a history of taking the long view in its decision making. Oxfam reports this morning that 1% of the population own more wealth than the rest of us put together. With this wealth goes power and influence far out of proportion to what should be the case.

  4. My guess is they won’t do anything – that, as you rightly say, is Liz Truss’ brief. What does interest me is that persecution could be high on the agenda as we run up to the election because of the Malta campaign and spring migration.

    1. Andrew. You keep bleating on about brood management. Firstly, why should such lengths be gone to, to compromise with the criminal element of an elitist minority sport.

      Secondly, supposing it was implemented and Hen Harrier numbers started to recover. What would happen when they recolonised their natural breeding grounds, i.e the upland moors? I suspect your merry men would kill them. If you’re going to tell me that you wouldn’t kill them then how about this for an idea. Stop killing them now and we can all forget all about brood management.

      1. Paul, if brood management is a proven conservation tool, why not trial it for hen harriers in England?

        1. Andrew – you’re forgetting. Sticking to the law is a proven conservation tool. Why not trial it for Hen harriers everywhere? It would be a novel approach.

  5. Defra has many species recovery plans… why would they not wish to publish a hen harrier recovery plan… that includes brood management?… a conservation tool that has been used successfully around the world to increase numbers.

    A month after you left the RSPB… they started funding a major brood management scheme for spoon-billed sandpiper… and still are; four years later…

    Who else is involved in this brood management scheme… to help a species being illegally killed? The WWT, Birds Russia, Moscow Zoo, BTO, BirdLife International, ArcCona and the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force…

    Still, don’t let the truth get in the way of a good blog…

    1. I wasn’t aware that the vested interests Mark is talking about also own the breeding grounds for spoon-billed sandpiper in the Russian coastal tundra. Is there plenty of driven grouse shooting over there as well? If not, what’s the relevance of your comment?

    2. Andrew Gilruth: please, if you are to represent GWCT, present your case with honesty and integrity, least you damage your employers’ reputation. You know full well that the motive for hen harrier brood management is to hold the hen harrier population down at a low density, in the unlikely event that your members stop killing them and their numbers start to recover. There is no need, at all, for hen harrier brood management within the context of English moorlands. Harrier broods are helped where they are nesting in arable in Spain because if they are not shifted they get ploughed in or destroyed at harvest. The spoon-billed sandpiper captive breeding project is designed to prevent the species from going extinct globally.

      As I’ve said before, the MOTIVE is what’s important here. Your motive – to prevent hen harriers recovering and thus interfering with intensive driven grouse shooting. The motive of spoon-billed sandpiper brood management – to prevent the species declining to extinction.

      1. Steve, all interesting points; but quite wrong. Brood management is a proven conservation tool to increase numbers – if hen harriers in the UK could benefit from that support, why delay a trial?

        1. Andrew – you’re forgetting. Sticking to the law is a proven conservation tool. Why not trial it for Hen harriers everywhere? It would be a novel approach.

  6. Hen Harriers are a designated feature of several Pennine SPAs and SSSIs. If there are none, then these sites should be in Unfavourable Declining condition. So, Mark, why not ask Natural England how Geltsdale and Glendue Fells SSSI (8059 ha) for which Hen Harrier are a designated feature (& its a part of the North Pennines SPA for which 11 pairs of Hen Harrier are a target feature) is all assessed as being in Favourable or Unfavourable Recovering Condition?

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