Thanks Mark, for allowing us the opportunity to introduce ourselves!
We are the Moorland Monitors – a group of local people from raptor, mammal and ecological backgrounds who want to combine forces to protect the wild species and wild spaces of the Peak District grouse moors. We believe that local people and visitors can play a huge role in opposing crime and cruelty on grouse shooting estates, and we want to mobilise them to do just that.
The Peak District National Park has a long and growing history of wildlife crime and ecological damage caused by grouse moor gamekeepers – and it’s not just the raptors! We want to get this on the agenda and mobilise the public in defence of all persecuted wildlife and decimated habitat. We intend to put an end to the ignorance and wilful blindness which have allowed grouse shooting estates to commit wildlife crime for generations. Grouse moor wildlife persecution and ecological destruction survive simply because most people are unaware of what is going on. When people are made aware, they are horrified and want to act.
Specialist groups such as the RSPB have repeatedly highlighted raptor persecution by gamekeepers in the area, including goshawk nest disruption[i] and illegal sparrowhawk trapping[ii]. The Hunt Investigation Team presented a heartbreaking expose into the systematic persecution of badgers, foxes and mountain hares here in spring 2017[iii]. The Sheffield Wildlife Trust have recently launched a campaign about stink pits, snares and traps on the boundaries of their nature reserves, which have the misfortune to be on the notorious Moscar Estate[iv]. Local campaigners are in frequent conflict with Natural England et al. about the repeated breaches of environmental law in heather burning and track building[v].
There has been much excellent work, but it has not yet been brought together to provide a full picture of daily life (and death) in the national park. The specialist groups and individuals work incredibly hard but often in isolation. There is no comprehensive voice for the Peak District uplands as a whole, as a complex and fragile ecosystem in its entirety, rather than as its individual parts. Moorland Monitors intends to do just this, bringing together all the issues and evidence, to monitor, advocate and protect on all levels. The missing hen harrier, the scorched moss, the disappearing adder, the polluted water and the snared badger matter equally to us: these are part of the same problem and deserve equal attention.
Along with the specialist organisations, the eyes, ears and action of the general public are now absolutely needed. We can see there is a massive problem – and a mass solution is required. Many thousands of visitors flock to the Park each season. By mobilising and empowering these people, the moorlands and native wildlife will have infinitely more protection, advocacy and chance of long term survival.
Moorland Monitors provide information and guidance to the public on the issues that need attention:
- Snare/trap patrols – to monitor illegal use in relation to birds and mammals;
- Nest monitoring – to ensure nesting is not disrupted at the crucial time;
- Peat bog measurement – to provide accurate, referenced evidence of illegal disturbance;
- Pollution evidence – where chemical grit medication enters the water system;
- Heather burning patrols – to record and report burning out of season, across streams and other breaches of legislation/guidance;
- Habitat monitoring – for damage and destruction in vulnerable locations such as active adder territory or in the vicinity of badger setts;
- Population densities – to demonstrate how different species survive/thrive/decline in the area;
- Other issues – illegal gas guns, illegal track building, planning permissions and so on.
This channels public concern into constructive team work and effective action. It will mean that the illegal and destructive practices employed by the gamekeepers can be highlighted and documented. Gamekeepers have never been under public scrutiny, which is how they have got away with so much crime and cruelty until now. We want the general public to be the eyes and ears of the moors, and to speak out for persecuted wildlife.
We are also campaigning to challenge and persuade local agencies to protect wildlife over shooting estate profits. This highlights the wilful blindness of key agencies such as land owners, park authorities, water boards and so on. These bodies could be powerful advocates for wildlife if they chose to do so.
We are optimistic about what can be achieved the input of local residents, recreational visitors and special interest groups (such as climbers, fell runners, walkers, birders, wildlife photographers etc who have a personal interest in protecting the area). The Peak District National Park could be a haven for the full spectrum of native upland fauna and flora, and we will keep fighting for this. We see the tide turning against driven grouse shooting – and the key role of the public in this battle. Please join us in monitoring the Peak District grouse moors. And if you are not local, why not see if you can develop a monitoring group in your own area!