Natural England not very open

Natural England are under fire from all sides it seems.

On this blog last week Bob Berzins’s account of the failure of NE to release details of a licence which allowed widespread unlimited killing of several species of birds (see here and here) suggested that the organisation might have been deliberately witholding information which it knew would show it in a bad light. And one wonders how many more such licences might exist?

I wrote about the lack of openness about the whole brood-meddling ‘experiment’ – why has NE not published a report on progress and the criticisms of the scientific steering group?

And on Friday the RSPB revealed that along with the brood-meddled nest and its nearby neighbour which meant that one or other nest ‘qualified’ for meddling, there were two other Hen Harrier nests on nearby Yorkshire grouse moors last year which have not been admitted by the Moorland Association nor by Natural England. Natural England appears to be standing by and letting the grouse shooting industry distort the truth (as they do – see here) without doing anything to correct the faulty information.

There is far too much of this going on, it seems, for this to be cock-up, even I think it looks very much like conspiracy. And when Natural England just hunkers down and does not respond it looks like that even more.

The Natural England senior leadership needs to sort this out. The organisation is losing its natural friends and allies in droves.

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13 Replies to “Natural England not very open”

  1. You are quite right Mark, Natural England’s behaviour and secrecy is totally unacceptable. In this day and age their lack of openness is a disgrace. Mr Juniper needs to get his house in order and quickly even if he is being pressurised by this Government to act in this way. We all pay NE salaries not this Government nor the shooters. We are entitled to know exactly what is going on. On the face of it one might quite reasonably assume that NE are working “hand in glove” with the shooters, that is diabolical.
    Seems to me if NE does not improve there might be a case for Wild Justice to take legal action.

  2. As just said on Twitter (IanCarter67): These days, Natural England’s first instinct when deciding how to act is ‘how can we keep Defra happy’, rather than ‘how can we best conserve the Hen Harrier’. It’s the reason I was unable to continue working for them after 25 years there.

  3. I’ve looked on the map and it very much depends where you put your compass points to measure the 5 km as to which moors fall within it.
    So I started from the area that I and a colleague watched the sky dancing harriers on Swinton estate in mid April 2019 (an area that was last used for successful nesting in 2002/2003) When four possibly five nesting attempts were lost to persecution mainly by male shooting).
    Braithwaite Moor owned by the National Trust not sure if it is keepered.
    Agra Moor part of Jervaulx Estate owner Marquis of Downshire, ( Nick Downshire ) Moorland Association Treasurer.
    Caldbergh Moor Owner: Harrison -Topham family Agent: Adrian Thornton-Berry Moorland Association Yorkshire Dales representative.
    East Scrafton Moor Owner ? was E.N Corner. Agent Adrian Thornton-Berry
    West Scrafton Moor. Owner Vallance?
    Angram North Moor Owner Yorkshire Water, Shooting Tenant Lord Vesty.
    Summerstone Estate Owner Steve and Karen Halsall
    Middlesmoor Estate Owners S & B Ramsden. B Ramsden is the Moorland Association representative for Nidderdale.

    If we take the middle of the Swinton Estate Moors 5 km also includes
    Dallowgill Estate Owner Simon Bostock ex chairman of the Moorland Association and ex High Sheriff of North Yorkshire
    Fountains Earth Moor Owner ?
    Stean Moor Owner Lord Vesty.

    So depending where these other two nesting attempts were some folk in the Moorland Association ought to be embarrassed. We should also bare in mind that Agra, Caldbergh, East Scrafton and North Angram moors have all had nesting attempts in the past which have ended in persecution caused failure.

    This is utterly scandalous of NE and should be a headline scandal. First we were originally told continuing proven persecution would end the trial and now this, all those interested in the Hen Harrier should like me be incandescent with rage.

    1. Did we ever hear what happened to the ‘nearby’ pair last year or the adults of the legally brood persecuted chicks?

      1. The pair that were not brood meddled are apparently in the same territory again. It is not clear whether the BM’d pair have returned or indeed that they survived. I had hoped to visit the area again this spring but of course the virus has kept me here in Wales.

  4. I like many folk interested in raptors and Hen Harriers in particular dislike this brood meddling scheme intensely and I fail to understand on a practical front how this in the long run can work to alleviate the routine persecution of Hen Harriers on grouse moors, however any scientific integrity of the scheme relies not only on openness but in the parties involved being scrupulously honest about both BM and any related facts. That NE/DEFRA have not been means that this scheme has NO scientific integrity or validity at all. Nor has anything else they say or do about Hen Harriers now, being condemned by association.

  5. The chief executive of the BTO, Andy Clements, is a board member of Natural England. You wonder what he makes of it all. Does he have a view on the subject? If so, does he ever express it?

  6. As I’ve said before Mark, this attitude isn’t that of Natural England, but that of the government, and government ministers who lean on Natural England, and who would come down on them like a ton of bricks if they spoke out. It really is letting this nasty dishonest government off the hook by blaming statutory bodies, for behaving in the way this government demands they behave.

    1. SteB – I don’t think you are right.

      The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing, but if they do what the bad men tell them to do then how do we know that they are good men? As Edmund Burke didn’t say.

    2. I understand this viewpoint. If you are one of the NE managers who has conservation at heart then you have two options, neither very appealing. Speak out and suffer the consequences, leaving the position to be filled by someone who will toe the line. OR, toe the line and try to influence Defra as much as possible behind the scenes, which rarely makes much difference. It’s a no win scenario for those in NE who care about conservation.

      1. There is no doubt that ” the boots on the ground” for NE are trying very hard to do their best for Hen Harriers. However their efforts work or not they are being very badly let down by those who make the decisions, “lions led by cowards and turncoats” comes to mind.

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