10th April 2017
The Moorland Association marks the very sad death of former Director General and Director of Research of GWCT, Dick Potts.
Dick Potts was born in 1939 to a farming family in North Yorkshire. From an early age, he took a keen interest in wildlife and he studied zoology at Durham University, where he specialised in ecology and entomology. After graduation, he undertook a PhD on the breeding ecology of the shag on the Farne Islands, Northumberland.
Dick was always fascinated by bird populations. He wanted to understand why a species was in decline so that he could devise ways of reversing that decline. He moved to southern England, where he was tasked by the Game Conservancy to unravel the grey partridge decline and what could be done to turn this around.
He was, however, by no means a single-species biologist. He turned his skills to conservation issues concerning other species including brown hare, red grouse, woodcock and lapwing. Dick’s ideas were viewed as pioneering, or even before their time, and it often took a while for the scientific community to catch up with them.
Dick became Director-General of the Game Conservancy Trust in 1993 until he retired in 2001. He was the driving force behind the Joint Raptor Project, which quantified the impact of hen harrier predation on red grouse demography at Langholm Moor, in southern Scotland. He also coined the phrase “conservation through wise use” which became a byword for sustainable harvesting of game species.
For all of his working life, he was told that thriving farmland wildlife could not co-exist with modern farming. Dick proved the doubters wrong – he was good at that and he will be sorely missed.
The funeral of Dr Dick Potts will be held at 2pm on Tuesday 25 April at St Mary’s Church, Fordingbridge, Hampshire with a reception afterwards at the GWCT, Burgate Manor, Fordingbridge.