13th August 2018
Grouse moor owners today reinforced their commitment to conservation despite the very poor shooting prospects for the season ahead.
The Moorland Association’s 190 members look after over one million acres of unique moorland across the North of England and have spent over £50m in the past year to restore the nation’s uplands and bolster its ecological diversity.
This work produced tangible success as this year has been the best hen harrier breeding season for over a decade. 21 hen harrier chicks fledged from land managed for grouse shooting, some 60% of this year’s total. Only 10 chicks fledged last year in the whole of England.
This has been followed by improved Peregrine and Goshawk breeding success in the Peak District. Up from zero pairs, there were three successful Peregrine nests on grouse moors and Goshawk reached double figures in forestry around the moorland edges. Merlin have had a bumper season with over 20 pairs and the elusive short eared owl appear to have done well because the voles they eat were particularly abundant.
Amanda Anderson, Director of the Moorland Association said: “Whilst birds of prey have done better, mother nature ultimately determines whether estates will be harvesting grouse or not. Grouse eat heather and the heather has had a real bashing from the extremes of weather this spring and summer then been attacked by heather beetle. There just hasn’t been enough food for grouse to breed well to create a surplus to harvest. Regardless of the number of shooting days possible, grouse moor managers know the all-year-round custodianship has to remain the same – and that means very hefty investment. If there is any revenue from shooting, it will help to defray those costs.”
“We estimate that our members, which includes sporting tenants of other landowners, invest well over £50 million over the course of a year – that’s a million pounds a week. Without the privately funded conservation management of this distinctive heather habitat, there would be no red grouse, curlew, lapwing, golden plover or many other distinctive ground nesting birds. Grouse shooting has disappeared from the south-western moors and most of Wales and with its management, so too have most of these wonderful birds.”
In partnership with Natural England, MA members have pledged to restore around 400,000 acres of blanket bog and are undertaking peatland restoration work on a landscape scale. To date over 24,000 hectares of the worst degraded peatland on grouse moors have undergone active restoration work.
The main benefits of healthy, restored peatland include increased carbon retention, improved water quality, reduced wildfire risk, greater biodiversity, sustainable grazing and a favourable habitat for a healthy population of red grouse.
This summer’s devastating wildfires in Derbyshire and Lancashire that burnt for weeks devouring everything living have brought into sharp focus the need to develop sustainable and resilient moorland habitats capable of withstanding both catastrophic incidents and other climate related environmental change.