A brood of five Hen Harrier chicks were ‘brood-meddled’ this year, and all were satellite-tagged so that we could all relish their adventures over the coming years. Trouble is, three of these birds have ceased transmitting signals to their expensive satellite links – just as is normal for Hen Harriers that spend much time on grouse moors at this time of year.
Three down (and presumably out), two to go. You can see why the Moorland Association and NE didn’t bother giving them names can’t you? It would have been a bit embarrassing if the two missing males and single missing female had been named after prominent government and NE folk wouldn’t it? Bye bye Theresa (Villiers), Zac (Goldsmith) and Tony (Juniper)?
It’s time for Zac and Tony (the Chair of NE and the government minister) to put their heads together and find a way out of the mess that their predecessors have landed them before more smelly stuff hits their fans.
Here are some hints:
- Nobody ever thought that brood meddling would work: the RSPB opposed it, raptor workers opposed it, ordinary birdwatchers opposed it. Why is that? Because it is a scheme dreamt up by grouse shooting interests (the main source of wildlife crime against Hen Harriers and other protected wildlife in our uplands) that helps grouse moor managers but does nothing to tackle the illegal persecution of raptors. It’s difficult to imagine that the former Chair of NE (Andrew Sells), the former CEO of NE (James Cross) or the former Defra minister who signed off this daft idea (Rory Stewart) ever really believed in this plan but notice that they are not on the spot now that birds are, predictably, going missing. No, Zac and Tony are lefting dealing with this mess.
- Nobody thinks that it is working: we’ve had two summers since NE announced that they would licence brood-meddling and one nest has been brood-meddled – hardly the response that government had been hoping for! Grouse shooting interests aren’t the least bit interested in participating in this ‘conservation’ initiative – it’s far easier to bump off Hen Harriers without getting caught. To date, after two months, three of the five brood-meddled Hen Harriers have suffered the same fate (it appears) that has befallen other Hen Harriers – they’ve disappeared ‘mysteriously’ on grouse moors in the grouse shooting season – how could this possibly have been foreseen (see 1 above)? There is enough evidence already to show that there is no great leap forward as a result of this costly and unpopular project – time to pull the plug, Tony and Zac. It ought to be a relief to you, and you’ll look daft if you don’t!
- Your chosen partners aren’t playing a straight game: it is a matter of grave doubt whether the Moorland Association are acting in good faith to try to get this daft scheme to work, but if they are, then it seems that those to whom you talk in offices have no control over what happens on the ground. Amanda Anderson has no clout with grouse moor managers including ‘keepers on the moors. It’s a partnership where your chosen partner can’t deliver on their end of the deal. Press releases over the years from the Moorland Association aren’t exactly a model of straight talking and honest description and things this year are worse than ever – see here, here and here.
- The court battle continues: both I and the RSPB have been given leave to appeal against the judgment that found that brood-meddling is not unlawful. There is a real chance that this failed initiaitive will also be shown to be unlawful – at some considerable expense to NE. Why bother defending the indefensible? Save yourselves the work, the expense and the embarrassment – jack it in now.
- NE can’t afford this type of project (1): as tearful cries from Tony Juniper increase, justifiably, that NE doesn’t have the resources to undertake its statutory duties fully and properly it is shooting yourself in the foot, with a Purdey, to carry on this failed project that is in no way necessary. Why waste staff resources on this hopeless and unpopular project when NE isn’t monitoring SSSI condition properly, isn’t producing reports on the state of protected areas, isn’t carrying out its responsibilities in the planning system by assessing development threats properly etc etc. NE won’t persuade any of us that it needs more money if it is wasting its resources on projects like this and not shouting for money to do the work that only the statutory conservation organisation can do.
- NE can’t afford this type of project (2): NE is also frittering away good will by its stance on wildlife crime and badger culls. Quite how much does NE expect that NFU and Moorland Association will fight for its survival and an increase in its budget? The answer is that they won’t, at all, however much NE is nice to them. These interest groups will pocket any gifts and still ask for more. On the other hand, it has been the wildlife and envrionmental NGOs that have always fought for the statutory agencies. Enthusiasm for that fight is waning fast and Tony has not done enough, so far, to show that NE is worth fighting for. Start ditching the dross and concentrating on core work and you will be seen to be doing the job that the taxpayer should expect from you. Know your friends and do your job NE! Brood-meddling is facing in the wrong direction on both counts.