The BBC News website published an article a few days ago about the proposed reintroduction of white-tailed eagles to Cumbria. The article was based on a recent BBC radio interview with Dr Alex Dittrich from the University of Cumbria who is reportedly involved with the project.
This project is in its infancy, with an initial feasibility study completed in April this year and now the group, led by The Lifescape Project, is seeking an eye-watering £120-150k to undertake 12 month’s worth of further ‘sensitivity testing’ in addition to consultation with stakeholders and the public. This funding request does not cover the cost of an actual reintroduction, only the preliminary stages up to submitting a licence application to Natural England.
I’m not sure why the results of a previous, extensive stakeholder consultation from 2013, undertaken by the University of Cumbria to establish the views of the farming, fieldsports and conservation sectors to the proposed reintroduction of white-tailed eagles to Cumbria, isn’t being utilised here?
The most recent reintroduction project report (see below) was published in April 2022 and lists the members of a newly-formed group called ‘White-tailed Eagles Cumbria Working Group’. Those listed include the Lifescape Project, Cumbria Wildlife Trust, RSPB, the Solway Coast AONB, University of Cumbria, University of Leeds and Natural England. The report states that this group will ‘oversee the development of the proposed feasibility study and any subsequent post-release activities’. If things go to plan, the report suggests that the first release of white-tailed eagles could take place in ‘summer 2024’.
The report, which can be read below, isn’t off to a convincing start. The eagle photograph on the front cover looks like a Bald eagle from North America, not a White-tailed eagle from Eurasia.
The good news is that a local Conservative MP, Mark Jenkinson (Workington) is fully supportive of the proposal to undertake further feasibility studies and consultations. This attitude is very welcome and in marked contrast to the well-publicised anti-eagle hysteria of another Conservative MP, Chris Loder (Dorset).
The Federation of Cumbria Commoners (representing hill sheep farmers) on the other hand is already questioning the justification for restoring the sea eagle to its former range (see here) but, to me at least, the Federation’s response does seem to reveal an air of inevitability about the potential release and reintroduction of eagles to this part of the country.