Just as Defra did not submit written evidence to the inquiry into driven grouse shooting – nor did Natural England.
The fact that NE have been spending our taxpayers’ money on a detailed study of ranging behaviour and mortality of Hen Harriers since 2002 has not led them to think that they might have anything that they ought to tell parliament on this subject.
And the fact that NE started legal proceedings against the Walshaw Moor Estate over alleged illegal management practices (see all posts here, 54 of them, tagged Wuthering Moors) didn’t make NE think they had anything to offer on the subject of moorland management.
Luckily, before NE were silenced by the coalition government, and then took a vow of silence thereafter, they did say something about their findings on Hen Harriers. Here are some quotes:
‘Detailed monitoring work since 2002 has shown that the critically low breeding numbers and patchy distribution of the hen harrier in England is a result of persecution – both in the breeding season, and at communal roosts in the winter – especially on areas managed for red grouse or with game rearing interests.’
‘The persecution continues for the small number of birds that do actually fledge from successful nests. There is further compelling evidence that this persecution continues during the winter at communal roosts.’
‘Over a 12 month period, six birds fitted with satellite transmitters have been tracked from the Bowland Fells into parts of the North Pennines managed principally as driven grouse moors, and have not been recorded subsequently. In another incident in one confined geographical area, three signals “went dead” between 2007-2008’
‘Following seven years of intensive monitoring and detailed research, the picture is unequivocal – hen harriers are being persecuted while they attempt to nest and birds are simply not returning to their breeding areas the following spring.’
There must be more to say about all these disappearing tagged Hen Harriers by now – here are some summary data – where did our money go if NE has nothing to say to a parliamentary inquiry?
And luckily, the RSPB complained to the EU Commission back in October 2012 (Saturday will be the complaint’s 4th birthday) so we know what they think of NE’s performance over Walshaw Moor:
‘The RSPB has today submitted a formal complaint to the European Commission over the handling of an estate in the South Pennines where a protected area of blanket bog habitat is under threat.
Following six months of investigation, the charity believes Natural England has contravened European environmental protection legislation in its dealings with the Walshaw Moor Estate, near Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire.
The site is home to an important area of blanket bog – a globally rare and threatened habitat of delicate mosses which supports scarce breeding wading birds such as dunlin and golden plover. Walshaw Moor is so vital for these species and habitats that it is protected by the highest European environmental designations.
The management of the estate – including burning and draining of the bog – has caused Natural England to raise serious concerns in recent years. However, in March this year, without a clear explanation, Natural England suddenly dropped legal proceedings against the estate, including a prosecution on 43 grounds of alleged damage.
Mike Clarke, RSPB chief executive, said: “The decision to lodge this complaint has not been taken lightly, but this is a vitally important issue which centres on the Government’s statutory duty to protect our natural environment.
“Natural England – the Government’s wildlife watchdog – has dropped its prosecution without giving an adequate explanation and without securing restoration of this habitat. It has also entered into a management arrangement which we consider has fundamental flaws. This combination of actions is probably unlawful and will do little, if anything, to realise the Coalition Government’s stated ambition to restore biodiversity.
“Natural England has an excellent record but at Walshaw it has not fulfilled its duty to protect wildlife. This has happened in the year that the Government seeks to review its environmental agencies. We think this case is a timely reminder that we need a strong independent champion of the natural environment.
“This is just one of several protected areas in our uplands, and this case may set an important precedent for how these sites are managed in the future.” ‘
Maybe I can see why NE didn’t submit evidence to the inquiry – but it’s more difficult to see why the inquiry doesn’t demand evidence from Natural England.[registration_form]