Hen harrier ‘reintroduction’ to southern England: the project group & their timeline

Last week we blogged about the proposed ‘reintroduction’ of hen harriers to southern England (here), part of DEFRA’s Hen Harrier Inaction Plan.

In that blog we focused on the unpublished feasibility/scoping report that was being used to justify the project, and we highlighted various concerns about the scientific robustness of that report.

In this blog we’re discussing who’s in the project group and that group’s proposed timeline for project completion.

So, who’s in the project group? Through a series of FoIs, the following individuals/organisations have been identified:

Rob Cooke (Chair) from Natural England

Adrian Jowitt, Natural England

Ian Carter, Natural England (although Ian has since left NE and it looks like Richard Saunders has replaced him in this group)

Phillip Merricks, Hawk & Owl Trust

Jemima Parry-Jones, listed as both Hawk & Owl Trust and International Centre for Birds of Prey

Steve Redpath, Aberdeen University

Teresa Dent, GWCT

Jeff Knott, RSPB (although the RSPB withdrew support for DEFRA’s Inaction Plan in July 2016 so presumably Jeff is no longer involved with this group)

Christopher Price, Country Land & Business Assocation (CLA)

Alex Raeder, National Trust (was invited to join the group in September 2016)

In May 2016, the group produced a draft timeline for the reintroduction project. Here it is:


If you’re struggling to read the small font size, here is the draft timeline as a downloadable PDF: draft-hh-southern-reintro-timeline

As you can see, there’s a long way to go before any hen harriers might be released in southern England (first releases planned for 2020) and there are numerous hurdles for the project group to jump over before those releases can happen. The group has to identify suitable release sites, find some birds from donor countries, get local stakeholder support for this ‘reintroduction’, meet IUCN guidelines, and find some funding.

We’ll shortly be blogging about each of these topics, and some of what we’ve discovered through FoIs will blow your minds. Watch this space.

19 thoughts on “Hen harrier ‘reintroduction’ to southern England: the project group & their timeline”

  1. Initial comment on the composition, not with standing RSPB withdrawal, is that it is vested interest of those seeking to secure the funding? Who would be the named beneficiary on any funding application?

    I have sympathies around credibility and I guess HLF might be concerned about funding such a contentious project?

    NE really are tying their colours to the mast? Jusdge and jury in some scenarios around assessment? Oh I forgot, Chinese wall ….

    On a tangent HLF seems to be becoming a slush fund for statute to turn to for funding, naive to think it funds respectable charities projects for public good any more?

  2. I hadn’t realised the National Trust was represented on this group, why is it? I hope many other NT members, like myself, will complain to the N T chief executive etc.

  3. In terms of Hen harrier conservation in core areas in the UK this project is a complete and utter waste of scarce resources. If it works in the future the game lobby will doubtless argue that there are plenty of breeding harriers in the south so they should be allowed to continue to limit both numbers and range in the uplands of the north. What we need is an NE and DEFRA with the balls to tackle the real problem, persecution on grouse moors. Solvable by a ban on driven grouse shooting.

  4. Let me see if I have got this right,

    The estates are illegally killing protected raptors, and basically anything they fancy.

    They have come to an ‘arrangement’ with various Government bodies, that, they will not kill what is not there.

    So, government bodies, including some ‘wildlife charities’, deeply infiltrated by said landowner criminals, rather than lawfully prosecuting their criminal pals, have agreed to pretend that they will move all wildlife off the land owned by their pals – at the tax payers expense ?

    and this is supposed to be good news?

    Is that about right ? Any thoughts ? or is this Alice in wonderland stuff, and I am going to wake up soon.


  5. To add to the valid comments above. What is magic about 2020? So much is due to happen then, as promised by the current government.

    We can now add that Hen Harriers are going to live happily ever after, anywhere except our moorlands????

    Introduce a ban on all driven game shooting. Whether it is grouse driven to destruction or tame pheasants thrown at the guns or partridges, it is all pointless massacre for the sake of killing and wasting.


  6. In the absence of anything remotely like an IUCN assessment, there is no way that the HLF could possibly consider a grant application.
    HLF need to understand that any such assessment will be subject to extremely close scrutiny.
    NE need to understand that they dont have the data or scientific support to fabricate a water tight case.

    Even if they could come up with a full assessment, the reasons for the current absence of the harriers would have to proven to haven been reversed. Every year since the start of 60’s, the shooting lobby have said that they would stop killing protected birds ….”from now on”!
    But clearly the accumulation of court cases and the scientific evidence unequivocally states that they are untrustworthy liars. The crimes are ongoing as the recent weeks have proven.
    So the HLF will require a level of proof to back up that much repeated claim “the killing has stopped”!
    Has anyone ever done a literature search to tally up the number and frequency of the broken promises?

    I wonder what a reasonable test would be? Ten years free of raptor crime? In the release area, in the greater release area…in England, in the potential dispersal area?

  7. I do not see how the proposed release scheme could possibly meet the IUCN requirement that the cause of the approaching demise of the existing English population of Hen Harriers has been identified and eliminated. Surely, given the evidence that these birds are highly mobile, the IUCN criteria would have to take account of the situation in the whole of England (and Scotland?). For as long as persecution of this species continues, schemes such as that proposed are a waste of time and money. It’s simply messing around instead of tackling the root of the problem which, as Leonard Cohen said in another context, ‘Everybody Knows’.

  8. What does the National Trust really think it’s doing by supporting this dubious ‘reintroduction’ scheme when it hasn’t yet shown any sign of not renewing grouse shooting lease on vast areas of our uplands that it owns? The evidence is clearly there that driven grouse shooting is itself a driver for wildlife crime against hen harriers and other raptors; the NT even has a 2016 video evidence of a gamekeeper on one of its Derbyshire/Peak District moorland estates with a gun and a hen harrier decoy. OK – it has served notice on that businessman to quit, but NT still says that in 2017 it will seek to put another shooting tenant on those 8,000 hectares around Kinder Scout and Bleaklow. So, there will probably be more mismanagement, over-burning, track-laying and illicit persecution on these uplands, thanks to this NT decision. Meanwhile, down south, will the NT really be saying that they’re making up for their tenants killing and driving hen harriers and peregrines from our English moorlands by importing hen harrier chicks from other countries?

    If readers of this blog have not yet done so, now’s the time to sign our our petition, which will be sent to Helen Ghosh (NT CEO) later this year. We have 1,000 local signatures so far, and a further 3,000 online, many being NT members seeking better management of these Peak District moorland estates without grouse shooting and wildlife crime.
    Sign here: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/p/nomoorshooting

    Finally, well done Raptor Persecution for digging this out. If the project is going to seek big HLF funding it shouldn’t be too hard to provide their officers with sufficient evidence to demonstrate the folly of funding such a scheme. I know from personal experience how sensible their staff can be, and how keen they are to listen to environmental concerns about project funding being mis-applied. I would have thought that a bit of judicious early lobbying and publicity would quickly bring HLF to its senses.

    1. “I know how sensible their staff can be…” Me too, but then I used to think that about NE !

      2020 and an application to HLF, it’s just an ugly distraction from the illegal persecution, the elephant in the gun room.

    1. Thanks for the confirmation, Jeff. Dare we hope that the National Trust representative will say the same?

  9. they’ll all get shot the moment they fly past. with natural england handing out licences to shoot buzzards in the south west, why are DEFRA wanting to re introduce hen harriers? Does DEFRA want to please everyone? Does DEFRA reckon that Natural England can take care of that problem when it comes up and the Shoots want to protect their poults? Maybe the game keepers have asked DEFRA to supply some more birds of prey to shoot and to enrich their lives.

  10. If the donor country ‘s know the truth regarding the reaction of land owners (through their gamekeeper) to previous attempts to introduce Hen Harriers, then if they have any sense, they won’t allow their birds to be the target of the illegal killing of them and with no consequences from the law enforcers?

  11. Moorland Vision has hit the nail on its head – how on earth can NT be involved in this whilst it is still on track to re-let grouse shooting in the Peak District ? The Grouse shooters have unsuccessfully questioned RSPB’s charitable status over its increasingly strong opposition to their raptor destroying activities – but surely it is NT’s status that should really be being questioned. NT is meant to be a conservation charity and this is clearly a test case.

    In the meantime, I’m writing to HLF to oppose any funding application for this ridiculous proposal.

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