Regular blog readers will be aware that there are currently two separate groups with a stated interest in reintroducing golden eagles to Wales, although both have very different, conflicting approaches.
[Photo of a young golden eagle by Getty]
I’ve been particularly interested in the approach of one of these groups, Wilder Britain, which is headed up by Dr Paul O’Donoghue who is known for, amongst other things, his failed application (under the name of Lynx UK Trust) for a trial release of Lynx at Kielder Forest (here) and his failed attempt (under the name of Wildcat Haven Enterprises CIC) to sue Andy Wightman MSP for alleged defamation (here).
Since February 2019, O’Donoghue has made a lot of noise in the media about his ‘plan’ to reintroduce golden eagles to Wales and he’s been fundraising to support this ‘plan’ but so far, in complete contrast to the Eagle Reintroduction Wales Project, very little detail of his background research or his ‘plan’ has emerged.
As a result, in August last year I submitted a Freedom of Information request to Natural Resources Wales (NRW, the Welsh Government’s statutory conservation agency) for information about any correspondence it’d had with O’Donoghue about reintroducing golden eagles.
It took NRW three months to respond (instead of the statutory 20 working days) and when it finally did respond, it refused to divulge any information because it claimed the requested information was exempt (see here).
I didn’t agree that the requested information was exempt so I challenged NRW to review the decision. It did review it and, two months later, I received the following response yesterday:
The accompanying information that NRW released is posted below. It’s not especially interesting; there’s what looks to be a great deal of posturing and bluster, but essentially NRW has not yet received a licence application from Wilder Britain in relation to the reintroduction of golden eagles to Wales.
Here are the released documents:
Of much more interest was the second part of the letter from NRW to me, where it sets out its position on reintroductions in general and then specifically on proposed golden eagle reintroductions. This information is useful as it clarifies several issues, including what licences would be required for a reintroduction and the option for NRW to conduct its own public consultation prior to a decision being made. This should be reassuring for many.
It’s also useful to see NRW’s commitment to meeting IUCN standards, and that includes addressing the persecution issue and whether it’s still a risk to golden eagles. Recent revelations exposed on this blog indicate that it is indeed still a significant risk (see here).
In amongst the released documents from NRW is correspondence from Wilder Britain last summer about an intention to submit licence applications to NRW by Xmas 2020 with a view to releasing eagles in summer 2021. This seems ambitious, even without the new Covid lockdown, especially when some key eagle experts in Norway (from where O’Donoghue has claimed to be sourcing donor birds) have apparently said they haven’t agreed to any such project.
Let’s see what happens this year.