20th August 2018
Dear Mrs Hayman,
I am writing to you having read your article on Labour List concerning grouse moor management practices.
A number of our members have expressed concern at the inaccuracies published within your article and hopefully this letter will provide you with a more accurate picture.
I should let you know that I intend to place this letter in the public domain.
Your contention that Defra Secretary of State Michael Gove is taking a light touch with grouse moor owners is mistaken. Grouse moor managers have voluntarily signed up to an agreement with Natural England to develop detailed long-term management plans that focus on the careful restoration of our uplands with the widely accepted and Defra-endorsed Blanket Bog Land Management Guidance at its heart. This guidance was signed off by a suite of organisations including NFU, National Trust and RSPB and will hopefully deliver a broad range of ecological landscape-scale benefits.
Your article argues that grouse management practices create a ‘false environment’. Whilst our treasured and designated moorlands are man-made this dates back thousands of years. In fact, is there anywhere in England that is not ‘false’? The careful management of land for wild red grouse creates an ideal environment for a variety of fauna and flora to flourish, notably endangered ground nesting birds, while creating a much-needed revenue stream on which many rural businesses rely during the shoulder months of the tourist season.
The Moorland Association are working with partners from some of the country’s leading conservation organisations, including the Yorkshire Peat Partnership and Moors For The Future Partnership, on innovative measures aimed at restoring peat soil to retain water in the uplands. This includes the blocking of historical agricultural drainage ditches to wet the peat and build resilience while inoculating the moors with special mosses to keep water in the hills and reduce the chances of flooding downstream.
Healthy peatland plays an essential role in water quality, flood and wildfire mitigation and carbon capture. Natural England has stated that at least 24,000 hectares on moors managed for driven red grouse shooting have undergone active restoration work with more in the pipeline. The reasons for the past degradation are numerous and where grouse moor management can play a part in reversing the problem, it is at the forefront of initiatives to do so.
As you may have seen in the media, 2018 was the most successful hen harrier breeding season in over a decade with 34 chicks fledging from 9 nests and 60% of these chicks fledged from land managed for grouse shooting. We look forward to building on this year’s success with our partners in the Defra-led Hen Harrier Recovery Action Plan and hopefully seeing a sustainable and well dispersed hen harrier population across England in the future.
In light of the above, I feel it would be constructive for the Shadow Defra team and the Moorland Association to meet to discuss issues of mutual interest.
I would be delighted to arrange a visit, at a time and date suitable to you, to an English moor managed for grouse shooting so you can see the enormous amount of conservation work that goes on behind the scenes and the socioeconomic value grouse shooting brings to our uplands. If this is not possible, I would be happy to meet in Westminster or your constituency.
Please do let me know if any of the options listed above would be suitable and I will liaise with your office to arrange a suitable date for such a visit.
I very much look forward to hearing from you.
Director, Moorland Association