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Moorland Association respond to RSPB game bird shooting review announcement

28th October 2019

The Moorland Association, which represents moorland owners and managers in England, today urged the RSPB to be ‘fair and factual’ in the review of game shooting it plans to conduct.

Responding to the announcement of the review at the RSPB AGM,  Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorland Association, said:  “There are hundreds of people within the grouse shooting community – including moor owners – who are committed members of RSPB and we all share a common goal of the protection and conservation of bird species and the habitat on which they thrive.

“The RSPB has stated that it wants to use its ‘scientific rigour’ to develop a set of conservation tests for management practices and we hope to be able to contribute to that process. We have every confidence in the environmental and conservation track record of grouse moor management – and the benefits it provides to society – and our view is founded on years of rigorous scientific research.

“We believe that experience and knowledge could be very useful to the forthcoming review which we hope will be fair and factual.

“Moorland management was recently praised by Defra officials who highlighted it as bringing ‘many benefits to the rural economy and the environment’ and wildlife on grouse moors is bucking national trends of decline. The final report of the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project, published earlier this month, highlighted the conservation benefits of management and revealed that a number of endangered species all improved whilst gamekeepers were active.

“Curlew numbers rose by 10% per year, golden plover up by 16% per year and snipe increased by 21%. Furthermore 60 years of heather loss was halted and over 600 hectares were restored. In contrast a GWCT study done on Muirkirk & North Lowther Uplands, where keeping has sharply declined, found an 84% drop in golden plover population, 88% drop in lapwing and 61% drop in curlew.

“Hen Harriers have had a record breeding season and 11 out of the 12 successful nests this year in England have been on moorland managed by gamekeepers for grouse shooting and there also have been encouraging reports on Merlin and Peregrine Falcon. 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.

“Whilst wildlife crime remains an issue – one incident anywhere is too many – significant improvements are being made. The recent joint effort, between Northumbria police and local gamekeepers, to help find Rosie, a satellite tagged Hen Harrier that stopped transmitting, proves the value of collaboration with locals and stakeholders on the ground.”

“Moorland Association members are also doing vital work on peatland restoration to reduce carbon emissions and the risk of wildfires. 86% of total peatland emissions in England comes from the lowlands. In the uplands, we are working closely with Natural England and Defra to find innovative ways to reduce even further any emissions by creating wetter conditions and reintroduce the king of bog plants, Sphagnum mosses, to protect the underlying peat and capture carbon. At least 42,000 hectares of peatland restoration work has taken place on grouse moors including revegetation of bare eroding peat and blocking up thousands of ill-advised and Government incentivised historical drainage ditches. In the Peak District alone the Moors for the Future Partnership estimate that the work done re-vegetating bare peat between 2003 – 2018 has avoided the loss of 540,000 tonnes of CO2.

“These efforts point to a real commitment from grouse moor management to provide conservation benefits alongside substantial positive social and economic outcomes. The debate around game shooting is too often polarised and so much more can be achieved with a genuine collaborative approach.”

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Did You Know?

75% of of the world’s remaining heather moorland is found in Britain – 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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