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Grouse moors respond to RSPB birdcrime report

29th August 2019

The Moorland Association, which represents grouse moor owners and managers in England, said today that grouse moors are a proven friend of the environment and not an enemy.

Following the publication of the 2018 Birdcrime Report by RSPB, Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorland Association, said: ” One incident of wildlife crime anywhere is too many, but RSPB’s Birdcrime report has morphed into a blunt and unfounded attack on all grouse moor management with few supporting facts. RSPB’s view that it is ‘criminal, unsustainable and environmentally damaging’ is not shared by government and other agencies.

“Grouse moors can take great pride in their conservation work. If our moors were not managed for grouse shooting we simply would not have the same abundance of wildlife and protected priority habitats. Moors with their peat soils also play a major part in locking up carbon mitigating climate change, slowing the flow of water reducing the effects of flooding and filtering drinking water for free. Controlled heather burning plays a key role in the fight against catastrophic wildfires and is used and backed by fire service chiefs.

“Moorland management was recently praised by Defra officials who highlighted it as bringing ‘many benefits to the rural economy and the environment’ and there is a multitude of initiatives under way to achieve even better outcomes for habitats and wildlife.

“Wildlife on grouse moors is bucking national trends of decline such as the curlew and lapwing. Birds of prey, for example, Hen Harriers have had a record breeding season and there have been encouraging reports on Merlin and Peregrine Falcon on grouse moors. Reported sightings from 14 grouse moors by gamekeepers on the North York Moors revealed 25 pairs of Merlin displaying breeding behaviour. At least 56 young Merlin were observed on the wing suggesting a high rate of successful fledging. Ten of the possible 25 nests were ringed by the local BTO licensed ringer. There is also stable and improving raptor breeding success in the Peak District.

reported sightings from 14 grouse moors by gamekeepers on the North York Moors revealed 25 pairs of Merlin displaying breeding behaviour. At least 56 young Merlin were observed on the wing suggesting a high rate of successful fledging. Ten of the possible 25 nests were ringed by the local BTO licensed ringer.

“There is a widespread land manager commitment to eradicating wildlife crime like targeting Police-led Operation Owl in known persecution hot spot areas. Given that there are a similar number of incidents reported by RSPB each year across all of England, it would seem that the more co-operation and partnership on the ground is really the way to make further progress. We believe that a hearts and minds approach to prevent crime coupled with existing regulation and legislation is the best way forward.”

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Did You Know?

75% of Europe’s remaining upland heather moorland is found in the UK – but this area declined alarmingly over the latter part of the last century. The Moorland Association was set up in 1986 to coordinate the efforts of moorland owners and managers to halt this loss, particularly in England and Wales.

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