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Wildlife management

Bang goes the 'harmful man' theory
Magnus Linklater
Grouse moor owners are heroes not villains of conservation - Times Online

....every conservation body worth its salt will assure you, where man intrudes, wild life is on the retreat.

It is a message that is applied not just to the Himalayas but to the hills and moorland of Britain. It bolsters the ethos and the coffers of impeccable organisations like the WWF, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and government-sponsored bodies such as English Nature and its Scottish and Welsh equivalents. Their running theme, rarely challenged in public, is that, where wild birds and animals are in decline, the hand of man, whether farmer, landowner, forester or sportsman, can be detected. Intensive farming, commercial exploitation and leisure pursuits such as hunting or shooting have driven some species to the point of extinction. Unless these human activities can be reined in, goes the story, the future for wildlife is bleak

It is a deeply flawed message — at best a half-truth, at worst a deliberate distortion. Past masters at selling it are the RSPB, which last week issued yet another grim account of persecution, this time in the Peak District, which is to be the subject of an adjournment debate in Westminster Hall today.

Peak Malpractice, as the report is titled, claims that birds of prey, such as goshawk, hen harrier and peregrine, are in steep decline because of “illegal persecution”. “The scale of decline is shocking and to bird-of-prey experts, there is no natural explanation,” an RSPB statement says. English Nature is blunter. It places the blame firmly at the door of grouse moor owners. “Areas where protected species have been affected coincide with driven grouse moors,” it says. “These include some of the most important conservation sites in Europe.”

You will find any number of similar stories on the RSPB’s website. What you will not find are some very inconvenient facts, based not on propaganda but on science, which have been issued by the Game Conservancy Trust. Its own report, Nature’s Gain, presents a very different picture. It shows that on land that is managed for shooting, whether moorland, woods or pasture, wildlife is thriving. Over the past ten years, on grouse moors, for instance, golden plovers, curlew (pictured) and lapwing, which are under threat in so many parts of England and Wales, have multiplied by up to five times. The merlin, Britain’s smallest bird of prey, is twice as common on grouse moors as elsewhere. In the North Pennines area, which the RSPB complains about, curlew have increased by 18 times more than in the Berwyn Special Protection Area, which is managed as a bird reserve.

Pheasant shooting, widely condemned by conservationists, has done wonders for small birds such as robins, blackbirds and finches. The cultivation of woods and verges and the planting of game crops have resulted in wild bird numbers quadrupling in some areas. On one sample farm, in Leicestershire, where modern farming goes hand in hand with shooting, song birds, brown hares and harvest mice have shown dramatic improvement. The explanation is simple. In these places, nature is “managed ” to encourage wildlife. Heather is burnt, which stimulates new growth. Vermin are controlled. Predators such as foxes and crows are kept down.

Contrast this with the RSPB’s own lamentable record. On Langholm Moor, where the society, allied with Scottish Natural Heritage, presided over an experiment to withdraw all gamekeeping, the number of birds, including hen harriers, grouse, waders, and all songbirds, has crashed. It is now, to all intents and purposes, a desert area. On Lake Vyrnwy, a reservoir area in Mid-Wales managed by the RSPB, curlew, plover and lapwing have declined to near-zero. Black grouse, which once thrived, are being wiped out, not just by foxes, but, embarrassingly for the RSPB, by the goshawks that they so much favour. Data for other species, like stonechats and short-eared owls, are simply not recorded — perhaps because the results are so bad.

Comments

So they are not advocating the withdrawal of mans hand in intervention but actively interfering with the delicate balnce that has succeded for generations causing wildlife deserts to occur! If that isnt interference that I dont know what is. Organisations that buy land should be rewarded or penalised on the basis of the wildlife diversity that they encourage!

Tim C,

That would phuque the RSPB then. I read a report in the Torygraph about 18 months ago that described a farm owned by that august institution. Did they have programmes in place to enhance the lives of our feathered freinds? Lots of old barns with knooks and crannies for barn owls, Lots of hedges for other tweeties? Did they heck. The place is run as a purely commercial venture to raise funds.

I've given up reading anything that comes from a "charity" any more; their publications are as full of self-serving distortions, dissembling and half-truths as government ones. Which is hardly surprising when most of these organisations seem to be pushing the same agenda as Blair's cosa nostra.

RM

To Manage a Grouse moor you need a good Gamekeeper and a Good Hill Shepherd with the sheep herded regurly all year round on the hill.Take them all off even for a month and you take away the hoover that picks up the ticks and worms. How many grouse moors are shepherded the traditional way? Shepherding is virtulary extinct in england. So will grouse numbers be if sheep are not managed the way they once were. Record numbers of grouse when sheep were sheperded on the hill. It is Quoted a lot about too many sheep,it should have read no shepherd. Sheep are like lawn mowers if you dont move them they keep cutting the same area.

These people, how many of them eat chicken, pork, beef etc?
All of them? probably. Even though most of the meat they eat is mass produced with little respect for teh animals welfare.
The pheasants that are shot have a wonderful life grubbing around in the wonderful countryside before thay are humanely despatched, more than can be said for the chickens we all eat.
The countryside IS a better place because of the work of the gamekeeper.
The moorlands ARE a better place for the work of the gamekeeper.
I am an avid birdwatcher and a member of the RSPB. The RSPB are full of bullshit but i give them my money due to the sterling work they do in securing and managing habitats for birds.
Lets see which they prefer, the Gos or the Grouse!!

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