NE use at all?

nehouseJust 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.


10 Replies to “NE use at all?”

  1. Apologies for going off topic but I wanted to let you know that I have been experiencing some problems accessing your web-site over the past couple of days. The page starts to load but then just ‘hangs’ for a long period. It seems that the problem only occurs when I use the Firefox browser as the page loads perfectly well in Google Chrome. Other web-sites seem to load satisfactorily in Firefox so I am assuming the problem is somehow linked to your blog software. Don’t know if or how easily you can do anything about this but thought you would want to know. Have any other readers reported problems?

    1. There shouldn’t be a problem as fire and foxes are inextricably linked to the writings on this website.

    2. It is a corrupted cookie issue, it happens with Firefox every so often. Clear all Mark Avery cookies when it happens and hit reload.

  2. The enquiry should ask them for the information, otherwise it is not a real enquiry. Surely there must be a statutory requirement for government departments to furnish any government enquiry with all the relevant information that they possess????? I must say I am flabbergasted by this.

  3. There appears to be a Savillesque attitude by NE towards raptor persecution.
    In years to come there will be former NE employees coming out, admitting that they were being bullied into turning a blind eye to what’s going on within the gamekeeping industry.
    Big butted rich men shooting from their butts are leading this government.
    One fine day those butts will be used as hides to photograph an increasing population of no-more-persecuted Hen Harriers. But until that time flourishes on our moorlands we will have to keep on fighting the cause, a cause which has been greatly developed by you Mark Avery. I salute your doggedness, nay grousedness, in fighting for our natural heritage. Your writings, amongst other writers’ blogs and books on the subject of nature’s decline by intensive human activities, have greatly increased my knowledge and I am now beginning to fight my own corner when I’m told by pro-grouse shooters “You have a big problem Andy”.

  4. This failure to do the right thing, clearly demonstrates just who’s pocket Natural England are in. All I can say god help our raptors, a total disgrace.

  5. Love the analogy and prediction Andy H, no doubt we’ll have to pat the prospective heroes on the back as well? Chalk face staff struggle but the aspiring politicians (management) therein, cull ’em?

    How many readers remember “Muzzled Watchdog” (1997) sadly now nothing more than a “loathsome lapdog” or maybe a “polpoodle” (with apologies to CGP)?

    Tomorrow is too late, decades of upland mismanagement (I avoid the ‘a’ word due to respectful sensitivities) is in urgent need of address.

    Have to say Halloween seems a most apt date for a Westminster ‘party’ ….

  6. When the coalition came into power one of the first things they apparently did was remove NEs independent voice. as bit like children they of old they were told not to speak and less spoken to and indeed to say nothing without DEFRA permission. however this goes well beyond that. We know that as a government this lot could not give a flying fig for the environment or wildlife so DEFRA’s behaviour whilst inexcusable is sort of expected. BUT remaining silent for gods sake they have been spending our money on Hen harrier as part of the HH recovery programme since 2002, including funding as PHD on dispersal and survival, satellite tagging birds etc. They have a wealth of information about harriers and grouse moors yet remain silent. I think Terry is being rather too polite when he says total disgrace, I am utterly shell shocked by their silence have those working on harriers no self bloody respect! Heads should roll!

  7. NE is going through another rounds of redundancies (as is the EA), and many senior, long-serving staff have taken the retirement package. You will not be surprised to learn that NE is losing most of its experienced and strongest staff, including many of its national specialists.
    Weaker middle managers, however, will stay and get promoted into the vacancies. Defra will be delighted by the outcome.

  8. NE is being gutted and even if staff were stupid enough to speak out -ever since it was founded NE has been sacking people – the shelf life of NE directors is measured inmonths, not years – there is no way donnothing Defra is going to allow the truth anywhere near the public realm. The only consolation is that Defra’s main concern is not causing trouble, so they are as unlikely to satisfy their CA supporters as they are the people trying to stop persecution – viz the non-appearance f a repeal to huntinn law.

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