Peak Park Mismanagement – who introduced the Ostriches?

In a consultation document similar to the one above, the Peak District National Park introduces the Ostrich into the uplands of England.  Rarely has a public body been seen to stick its head into the peat, but that’s what the Peak District NP is doing.

Last year the PDNPA consulted on its draft plans for England’s oldest National Park, and famed wildlife crime hotspot, and received an overwhelming outpouring of public comments pointing to the ‘elephant not in the room’ of the missing birds of prey. The Dark Peak, the area of the National Park which is dominated by grouse shooting and in which birds of prey are almost absent is famed for its lack of birds of prey, the disappearance of raptors from their former haunts and the incidence of wildlife crime in the area.  The scale of wildlife crime is so high that reports have been written to highlight that crime, a group set up to try to deal with it (which has been completely unsuccessful) and the public highlighted the issue very strongly in a consultation on this very issue.  But all this has been ignored by Dianne Jeffrey and her Peak District Management Plan Advisory Board in their current draft plan – which is out for further consultation.  So, we’ll just have to respond to this consultation won’t we? Watch this space!

The new and inadequate management plan is published at a time when unease about the delivery of National Parks for their purpose of maintaining and enhancing natural beauty is growing. Last week, George Monbiot gave UK National Parks a deserved tongue-lashing in the Guardian and even Defra highlighted the need for change in National Parks in their 25-year environment strategy.  Monbiot said that our NPs were being run for a tiny minority of shooting types and the PDNP makes sure that that is true by putting moorland owners at the heart of all its actions and inactions. Remember it was the Moorland Association who blocked any public comment about the failure of  the Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative (BOPI) last year.  But the PDNP stumbles blindly on, ignoring the issue of wildlife crime and ignoring its source.

You can find mention of birds of prey in the consultation document  (p27 , section 2.2, ‘ensure that the management of the uplands conserves and enhances the special qualities of the Peak District National Park’) where birds of prey are referred to as being ‘under-represented’ – they certainly aren’t being represented very well in this document. When you turn to the Delivery Plan to find out what exciting new initiatives are planned then there aren’t any (p41).  Their fate appears to depend on the BOPI, from which the RSPB recently resigned, but which is listed here as one of a number of partnerships which has ‘made progress’ whereas, in fact, it has been an utter failure.

When the RSPB resigned from the BOPI, they said ‘some members of the group are still failing to acknowledge that the main reason birds of prey are doing so badly in the Dark Peak is because of illegal persecution such as shooting, trapping and poisoning. By refusing to admit the scale of the problem, and its clear link with land used for driven grouse shooting, which is highlighted in numerous studies and reports, these members have frustrated any possibility of progress’ yet these are the people on which the PDNP still depends to deliver its statutory aims for our National Park.

No milestones are set except to count the lack of birds of prey in 2018 and to review the failed BOPI in 2019 and no outcomes or targets are set. It is a delivery plan with no meaningful aims and no meaningful actions which will result, unsurpisingly, in no meaningful delivery. If that’s the best the PDNPA can do after a public consultation that told it to pull out its finger then we need a complete overhaul of those who are failing to serve the public interest in the Peak District.




12 Replies to “Peak Park Mismanagement – who introduced the Ostriches?”

  1. I was a bit confused there Mark because I thought you were referring to the actual ostriches which are in the National Park…

  2. Maybe its time our NPs became a bit more national ? Is it any surprise that in Northumberland many visitors think that the (nationally owned) Kielder Forest is actually the National Park because it is where its all happening (including breeding Osprey Goshawk and England’s only Hen Harriers) when , of course, the forest was specifically excluded because its all nasty conifers.

    When the Forestry Commission launched Wild Ennerdale nearly 20 years ago now a key personal objective for me was to get other land management bodies – especially the National Trust -thinking about new approaches to the uplands. Sadly, whilst Wild Ennerdale itself is successful the message doesn’t seem to have spread much if at all.

  3. Brilliant report, Mark! It makes my blood boil….

    Great illustrations, too:-)

  4. I regularly visit the Peak District. So, I’d just like to say to people who have never been to the Peak District National Park, that though there clearly is a very serious issue with the management for driven grouse shooting in the uplands of the Dark Peak, there are still some delightful and biodiverse places in the park. There are, for example nature reserves managed by the Derbyshire WT with swathes of orchids of a variety of species, and these of course, also support a wide range of invertebrates, birds amphibians and reptiles etc. Plus, the Dark Peak does have areas with properly functioning blanket bog, valley mire etc. for instance, last year, I watched a pair of SE Owls taking prey to their nest in part of the Dark Peak where there are no grouse moors. It is also an area rich in prehistoric and industrial archaeology, fantastic views – mainly due to its Carboniferous Period geology, pretty villages, and nature reserves. I think I can say I love it. But I think these qualities are threatened by a number of activities, among them driven grouse shooting. From what I see it seems that, apart from the issue with grouse moors, there is another one that is just as damaging, that is surface soil, water course and soil enrichment from atmospheric and and water borne sources. This coupled with inappropriate grazing and general lack of management is leading to many of the quality grasslands declining in area and diversity.

    There is clearly a lot to be done to maintain and improve the environmental quality in the PDNP. DGS is just a part of it, and I’m pleased that you Mark, are raising mine and other people’s awareness of this issue. We need to keep on challenging those in authority, to make things better, or its present decline will continue unabated.

  5. If you follow Mark’s links the disconnect between the summary of comments received and the Plan is extraordinary. The Plan essentially ignores the feedback from the first consultation.

    Now the Plan doesn’t have to do what the commentators wanted, or accept their assertions/evidence, but it should at the very least meaningfully acknowledge the issues that have been raised.

    I quite often think, in response to comments here, that the people posting think that National Parks and AONBs have far more freedom and powers than they actually do – they operate under considerable political constraints by design and as a result of their governance structures. They are not quasi-NGOs able to take on a campaigning role nor do they have the powers to direct land management decisions in the way that NE does (not that NE is using their powers effectively anyway, but that’s another matter).

    But even in the statutory context that Protected Landscapes have to operate under, and the constraints imposed by their political realities, this Plan is not fit for purpose. The PDNP has clearly decided not to take a view about DGS and instead to quietly default to maintaining the status quo; while I don’t agree with that decision I can understand why they may feel they do not have much choice about it. But to not even mention the controversy, to airbrush out the single biggest nature conservation and landscape issue facing the Park, is shameful and does them huge reputational damage.

    Mr Gove; there’s a chance for you to make your mark here. Take it.

  6. It’s obvious, if they refuse to do the job we are paying them to do, and won’t resign, Jeffrey and crew should be sacked.

  7. I have just sat in Caffè Nero, Buxton and this story came up on the news feed of a person, in a group of four, who read the headline. Within five minutes both men were incandescent with rage at ‘The utter stupidity’, of introducing ostriches, that will eat the other birds eggs. And are likely to attack humans and ‘rip out their shomachswith with those terrible claws.
    I got my phone out to check on this news and nearly guffaw Ed aloud, as I read it. I was half expecting them to mention the elephants too.
    Thanks for a good article and a better laugh.

  8. Our National Parks are going to have to decide whose interests they are going to support.Are they going to continue to appease and enable the driven Grouse shooting industry in the light of increasing evidence of its excesses and criminality,or are they going to fulfill their remit of protecting the natural environment and biodiversity that they surely should be held responsible for?

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