Hen harrier ‘reintroduction’ to southern England: who’s funding it?

Yesterday we blogged (here) about the HH southern England ‘reintroduction’ project team and the proposed project timeline.

That project timeline, which was drafted in May 2016, made it clear that a funding bid was going to be made to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). However, more recent documentation, released under FoI, suggests that an HLF bid may be trickier than the project team had first thought.

We know the project team was discussing a bid to the HLF right from the start. At a project team meeting in May 2016, Jeff Knott (RSPB) reported to the group that as far as the RSPB was concerned, there were no issues with the project team pursuing a separate LIFE bid for the southern reintroduction, but that extending the scope of the RSPB’s current HH LIFE project, or developing some other formal engagement between the two projects, was not possible.

In July 2016, Adrian Jowitt (Natural England) said that an HLF bid was the “preferred funding route”. However, by that time he’d also had discussions with Natural England’s external funding team to seek advice about the specific process and timescale needed for an HLF bid. He shared a document with the project team, summarising these discussions. That document can be downloaded here: natural-england-advice-on-hlf-application

This document provides the suggested timeline for an HLF bid, but what’s of more interest are the notes to the project team at the bottom of the document. Here’s what those notes say:

Because hen harriers are such a controversial subject HLF will be very wary of this bid. We will need to provide clear evidence that there is strong support from stakeholders for the project.”


Our estimates of project cost [£500k] have so far focused on the ecological/practical elements. We need to consider the costs associated with the public engagement elements of the project – these may be quite considerable. Advice from the EF [external funding] team is that the total costs will be in excess of £2 million“.

Now, we know from the FoI material we’ve got, that there is mixed support for the project from various landowners / shoot managers in Wiltshire and Exmoor. It definitely can’t be described as being ‘strong support’ (more on that in another blog). Although, bear in mind that we are working from ‘old’ material – our FoI request covered documents from January 2016 to 28 November 2016. Things may well have moved on since then – we’ve submitted more FoI requests which may reveal that more landowners have since been talked around. We’ll see.

Anyway, back to the FoI material we do have – at a project team meeting in October 2016, the issue of funding was raised again. It would appear from what was discussed at that meeting that an HLF bid may no longer be the “preferred funding route”, perhaps because of the lack of support from certain landowners / shooters. Here’s what was said at that project team meeting in October:

A number of potential funding routes were discussed, including the possibility that some conservation trusts may be interested in funding this work. We agreed to postpone the decision on which funding route to pursue until the informal consultations were over and we had been able to fully gage the level of support‘.

As of November 2016, the likely success of an HLF bid looks decidedly ropey. We’ll see in due course if an HLF bid is still on the cards and if it is, many of us will be making contact with the HLF and asking the sort of questions that Mark Avery has suggested we ask (see his blog on this subject here).

17 thoughts on “Hen harrier ‘reintroduction’ to southern England: who’s funding it?”

  1. Am i the only one who thinks that statements like this are subverting democracy
    ‘We will need to provide clear evidence that there is strong support from stakeholders for the project’
    Shouldn’t it be ‘strong support from the public’?
    I hate the word stakeholders when we are talking about living beings and their ecosystems which have an innate value in themselves. Another word that has corrupted our sense of the beauty and wonder of the natural world.

  2. Given the repeated claims that gamekeepers and the game shooting industry in general are the ‘true conservationists’, I’m sure the Duke of Westminster and some of his similarly wealthy grouse shooting friends would be happy to stump up the requisite funds. After all, they already receive handsome subsidies from the public purse ….

  3. I’d like to see the costs and benefits of an active southern reintroduction compared to an alternative – developing northern ‘source’ populations that could in time expand to occupy habitats in the south through natural range expansion. This alternative might include: extra funding for protection of upland nesting pairs; additional satellite tagging to increase knowledge of ranging behaviour; additional monitoring to detect additional pairs in new areas; communications with folks in the south in areas where birds are found to be prospecting, to increase favourable attitudes and thus reduce the likelihood of persecution in the south.

    1. It would cost nothing to ban driven grouse shooting and then the lowlands would eventually become re-colonized for free. Your alternative just isn’t feasible because the killing happens in remote areas. It is impossible to police without the army on the moors. [Images of a shoot to kill are too tempting].

    2. Should clarify that i think your suggestions are great, just not sufficient to bring Hen Harriers back to the lowlands. I can’t see that happening without a total cessation of persecution on grouse moors which as Mark Avery points out in Inglorious would require an end to driven grouse shooting.

    1. That’s a contradiction in terms. You can’t reintroduce what is already here – albeit under severe threat of extinction. If it were proposed, say on the grounds that the current English population was no longer viable, it is highly unlikely that it would meet the IUCN criteria relating to the identification and elimination of the cause of the demise in the first place. The same criteria should apply to the proposal to release them in the south of England, it being highly likely that birds released there would find their way pretty quickly onto the killing fields in the north of England.

      1. I took Gerard’s comment as being ironic. The point, i may have mistakenly got, is that it would be mad and shows that the lowland scheme even if it works is a bribe, sop or whatever you want to call it to the grouse lot. The recent post by RPUK on a plan to introduce grouse onto Exmoor shows this to be the case. If it wasn’t so terrible it would be hilarious. I just wish Frankie Boyle would do a rant on it.

  4. Surely the £2 MILLION + would be better spent on wildlife policing ?

    Then the extra moneys developed from HUGE fines, and property seizures, could be channelled into more crime prevention = end of problem.

    Why all this faffing about to pander to common criminals ? Jail them.

  5. So perhaps this scheme and the re-inroduction of Golden Eagles into Southern Scotland are just PR attempts to try and show them as actually caring about our raptors and trying to nullify public anger by creating a few red herrings, that are nothing more than delaying tactics-at best!

  6. In the same way that the driven grouse shooting ban was not going to happen currently….. this proposal will evaporate too.
    In the end it will be increased public education & therefore pressure on game shooting [ particularly of grouse ] allied to increased surveillance / policing / telemetry/ loss of subsidy incentive that will render such activities unviable economically.
    Real vicarious liability would also help.
    Yes, this may well only happen with longer term political change, but as I have previously noted ;
    The changes that my generation of raptor workers has helped bring about in the last 50 years have been immense.
    The next generation of raptor workers [ since myself & many others are getting a bit superannuated ] will now continue the work until a truly biodiverse upland ecosystem can be started again.
    Even the eventual death of driven game shooting will not change the destruction that has wrecked the uplands through centuries – deforestation [ + exotic afforestation ], burning, drainage,water impounding, overgrazing, loss of most apex predators & unnaturally high deer populations etc etc.
    We are still only at the start of what will be another century of work to really make a difference.
    Quite what the uplands will look like after such work under the likely climate change scenario is anyone’s guess, but it has to be better than the current grouse & heather monoculture that remains in parts of the Highlands & north England.
    I remain an optimist as we have come a long way already in raptor recovery.
    Age has few benefits, but one such is perspective, when viewed in many decades !
    Contrary to a recent post here, the increase in large raptors is not just in the lowlands – look at the numbers for Golden & Sea eagle, Kite,Goshawk, Buzzard & others in Scotland since the 1960’s.
    Lets have lots more tagging of kite, eagle, harrier etc to ram home the message …. ” Raptors don’t commit suicide & their deaths by lead, trap & poison are not natural causes !”
    It is also not beyond the realms of possiblity that the flow of new young driven game shooters will start to dry up once the costs of such addiction become socially unacceptable.

    Keep up the pressure !

  7. I can’t see the HLF supporting this particular project as it is public knowledge that the out of control shooting fraternity will give it lip service and then carry-on killing everything they think will affect their shoots. Until they are brought within the law of the land, then such schemes are a waste?

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