GRASS­LAND FEEDER

Bird Watching (UK) - - Conservation Hen Harrier -

mo­men­tum across the me­dia, in protest, and on­line. I am a sig­na­tory for a few rea­sons: the il­le­gal­ity of grouse moor prac­tice, wider en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts such as burn­ing, the lack of har­ri­ers and the cre­ation of a heather mono­cul­ture in place of var­ied up­land habi­tat. I don’t agree that moors are fun­da­men­tally ‘bad’ for wildlife. Un­fash­ion­able as it may be to say, they have an ex­cel­lent track record with Mer­lins, are gen­er­ally amenable to Short-eared Owls and en­cour­age high wader pro­duc­tiv­ity – they form land­scape level refuges for red-list species; and I have no ob­jec­tion to Fox re­moval. Iron­i­cally, this would ben­e­fit har­ri­ers too: we must al­ways pri­ori­tise van­ish­ing pop­u­la­tions, such as up­land waders or rap­tors, over com­mon gen­er­al­ists we can find in most city or town gar­dens. So, would the bird­ing land­scape be bet­ter if we banned driven shoot­ing? Dr Mark Avery ar­gues con­vinc­ingly that driven grouse shoot­ing will be banned in 10 years’ time. Let’s as­sume he’s right. With driven grouse shoot­ing banned, will the har­rier – and its wider ecosys­tem – be bet­ter off? On the day driven grouse shoot­ing is banned, grouse moor own­ers find them­selves con­sid­er­ably poorer – and more hate­ful of har­ri­ers than even be­fore. For more than two decades, har­ri­ers have be­come the sym­bol of a Green Move­ment that has just di­vested grouse moor own­ers of mil­lions in rev­enue. The fi­nan­cial in­cen­tive to kill har­ri­ers has been re­moved, that’s all. The ide­ol­ogy of ha­tred re­mains. The game­keep­ers re­main. The 200-year con­tempt of har­ri­ers re­mains. Al­most ev­ery­thing re­mains the same. The landown­ers now face two op­tions – keep the land, or sell. The ‘cur­rent own­er­ship’ op­tion is un­likely to ben­e­fit har­ri­ers for the rea­sons above. Slightly poorer but still wealthy, large landown­ers re­tain Hen Har­ri­ers favour rough grass­land over heather moors

IN­NO­CENT ‘CUL­PRIT’ The na­tive Red Grouse is nur­tured to be shot for profit Hen Har­rier Day takes place on 7 Au­gust 2016. Visit hen­har­ri­er­day.org enough keep­ers to snuff out these grace­ful sym­bols of the con­ser­va­tion move­ment with more hate than ever be­fore. Life goes on un­changed. ‘Walk-in’ shoot­ing be­comes mon­e­tised and more of an in­ten­sive in­dus­try. More peo­ple walk across the moor, more grouse are shot on foot, more grouse are needed: har­ri­ers lose. As long as har­ri­ers re­main the hostage of those who de­spise them, they stand no vi­able chance of sur­vival. The ‘panic and sell’ op­tion is the al­ter­na­tive. Di­vested of mil­lions, landown­ers look for a rich buyer. Step for­ward a range of un­ex­cit­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties – big agri­cul­ture or big en­ergy. What hap­pens to the grouse moor? It dis­ap­pears! If the grouse moor own­ers keep the land, the har­rier has lost. But if they sell to most par­ties – the over­all qual­ity of the land de­grades, not just for har­ri­ers but 70% of our nest­ing Mer­lins, many waders, some Black Grouse and moor­land passer­ines. There is only one buyer that will re­deem this sit­u­a­tion: us. Crowd-fund­ing and larger scale phi­lan­thropy are the ob­vi­ous so­lu­tions. If this can buy enough land to prove that con­ser­va­tion of the up­lands is fi­nan­cially vi­able, govern­ment and busi­ness may, in time, pro­vide the rest. For now, we must be­come un­apolo­get­i­cally rich and make sure our ap­proach to the har­rier is not ide­o­log­i­cal but prag­matic. One thought to fin­ish on. At a fun­da­men­tal psy­cho­log­i­cal level, hunt­ing is hard-wired into the mod­ern hu­man genome. We hunt with cam­eras and binoc­u­lars, oth­ers with guns and dogs. How­ever we dress it up, how­ever de­struc­tive or cu­ri­ous, we all go hunt­ing. The only so­lu­tion is to own enough land to re­dress the odds. In 50 years’ time, we must en­sure that in the Hunt for the Har­rier, it’s worth more alive than dead.

59 pairs in North­ern Ire­land, 57 pairs in Wales, 29 on the Isle of Man but just 12 in Eng­land

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