Hen harrier ‘reintroduction’ to southern England: Dartmoor as potential new release site

Continuing from yesterday’s blog about a series of updates on the proposed ‘reintroduction’ of hen harriers to southern England, here’s some more news gleaned from the latest FoI response from Natural England.

We knew from previous FoIs that Natural England was looking at Wiltshire and Exmoor National Park as the two preferred release sites for translocated hen harriers. These two areas had been identified by an unpublished feasibility study (which in our opinion is a flawed study – see here). The study had initially examined four potential release areas: Dorset, Dartmoor, Exmoor and Wiltshire. Based on multiple assessment criteria, Exmoor National Park was identified as the #1 preferred choice, Wiltshire as #2, Dartmoor as #3, and Dorset was considered unsuitable.

We blogged about Exmoor National Park here and Wiltshire here and there were early signs of some local resistance to the project. The latest FoI response from Natural England reveals that there is still trouble at t’mill in both areas and so now Dartmoor National Park in Devon is being considered as a potential release site.

Local resistance in parts of Wiltshire and Exmoor National Park seems to be coming from those with shooting interests. Some of those involved with pheasant and partridge shooting in Exmoor NP appear to object to the project because it might lead to “undue scrutiny of legitimate activities“. Eh? If the shooting activities are legitimate why would they have any concerns about “undue scrutiny“?

It’ll be interesting to see whether the same concerns are raised by shooting interests in Dartmoor National Park (another popular shooting area). It’s clear that Natural England is hoping that new Project Manager Simon Lee’s contacts in the area will help things along.

Here are the notes from the Southern Reintroduction Team’s last meeting in May 2017 when these issues were discussed:

18 thoughts on “Hen harrier ‘reintroduction’ to southern England: Dartmoor as potential new release site”

  1. With any luck the necessary funding will not be available and the whole project will be quietly dropped. Then perhaps NE and the H&OT could concentrate on exposing the illegal activities of the grouse shooting industry instead of deferring to its interests.

  2. But Sandra there are no illegal activities. Their concerns are about undue scrutiny of legitimate activities! Lol. How much longer is our wildlife to be held hostage to this unchecked criminality?

  3. So Dorset’s unsuitable; Exmoor & Wiltshire are resisting (so try Dartmoor!) ; there are no committed funds yet; and no agreed source of birds to relocate!

    How can anyone draw any other conclusion than it’s just a time-wasting exercise and a “job for the boy”?

  4. Do the French field works know that their birds are being sourced because shooting interests in England have shot out their own birds? Do the French know that all genuine conservation bodies in Britain know this is a deception plan by the shooting industry with chance of success, to divert attention away from their illegal and barbaric practices? Sourced in France, slaughtered in England.

    1. I find it profoundly odd that while Spanish, Polish and Dutch researchers know to steer well clear, French researchers (who presumably encounter Spanish, Polish and Dutch researchers in the normal course of observing-monitoring-publishing-collaborating-conferencing and so on) don’t seem to have twigged.

      All the more so since the Chizé centre that NE were in contact with has a whole research group focusing on the impact that land management practices and economic pressure have on biodiversity. Granted, they are operating in a very different type of landscape to the UK uplands, but still.

      [I am in France but a long way away from the proposed source area, and my local raptor group doesn’t monitor Hen Harrier]

  5. So they have no funding and rumour has it there will be none until 2019 at the earliest, no proper project plan, the preferred sites would would prefer not to be so and no definite source of birds. So wouldn’t these efforts be better spent solving the real problem, persecution in the uplands! Anything else is pointlessly tinkering round the edges.

    1. Not only do they fail these basic criteria, but it’s my view that they don’t have a snowball in hell’s chance of meeting the IUCN guideline relating to the eradication of the source of the problem. Unless they can guarantee, which they can’t, that any birds released will be programmed to steer clear of the danger areas, this crazy scheme simply will not happen. In the extremely unlikely event of them getting IUCN go-ahead, some very serious questions will need to be asked as to who is pulling the strings.

  6. Its way overdue that all game shooting is stopped in our national parks. Wildlife should be free from persecution in these places.

  7. All of these people, their wages.What a waste of money. Well done and congratulations Unnatural England.

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