As part of DEFRA’s Hen Harrier Inaction Plan, we know that a ‘reintroduction’ of hen harriers is planned for southern England.
We know that a (flawed) feasibility study funded by Natural England had identified two main areas of interest: Wiltshire and Exmoor (see here). We discussed the bonkers plan for Exmoor a few days ago (here). This blog is all about the proposed reintroduction of hen harriers to Wiltshire.
In May 2016, the Reintroduction project team discussed their early communications with stakeholders in potential reintroduction areas in Wiltshire. The following notes were recorded:
‘TD [Teresa Dent, GWCT] has had some early conversations with people likely to be helpful/key in helping communicate the proposals in southern England in particular [redacted] who is closely involved in the Marlborough Downs NIA [Nature Improvement Area] and has an application in for the Facilitation Fund to develop a farmer cluster in the Salisbury Plain area. There may already be an opportunity to raise the subject of the reintroduction via a raptor group meeting associated with the NIA in September‘.
Here’s a general map of the area:
In July 2016 the Reintroduction project team was updated with this:
‘AJ [Adrian Jowitt, Natural England] and Stephen Murphy [Natural England] down to talk to a group of farmers in early October but will try to make some further proactive engagement with key people before then‘.
In October 2016, the Reintroduction project team was updated with this:
‘A meeting proposed for the Marlborough Downs was cancelled due to fears that it would prove unproductive due to concerns raised by some of the shoots in the area.
A meeting was held with the MoD at Salisbury Plain which was positive; they are happy to continue to work with us.
AJ [Adrian Jowitt] and [redacted] meet with the “Delta Group”; a group of MoD tenants who farm around the Plain. Although poorly attended the proposals were positively received. The farmers there are already use [sic] to Montagues [sic] Harriers. There was acknowledgement that there were some shooting interests, not present, who may have concerns and it was agreed to try and have 1-2-1 meetings with those land managers. Further AJ will look to attend the Delta Group’s AGM so that farmers could discuss the proposals with him there‘.
An action point from this October meeting was: ‘CP [Christopher Price, CLA] to have some 1-2-1 conversations with CLA members involved in the proposed reintroduction areas‘.
We were fascinated to read about the lack of support from shooting interests in the Marlborough Downs area. This area is pretty close to Salisbury Plain (the apparently favoured reintroduction area) – a distance of approx 11.5km. Do you think the IUCN guidelines would be met if hen harriers were released on Salisbury Plain, in full knowledge that known hostile shoots are in such close proximity? Seems pretty doubtful to us.