Hen harrier action plan
THE UK GOVERNMENT HAS GIVEN THE HEN HARRIER BROOD MANAGEMENT SCHEME THE GREEN LIGHT.
Brood management scheme is given the go-ahead in northern England
Brood management is an initiative that has aroused controversy amongst conservationists and seeks to reduce the predation of grouse chicks from moorland, which is managed for shooting. The licence allows hen harrier eggs and chicks to be removed from nests: they will then be taken for hatching or raising in captivity before the fledglings are reintroduced to the wild.
Those in favour hope that if young birds are removed adult hen harriers will no longer need to catch large numbers of grouse chicks necessary to feed their brood, so preserving the shooting on which large estates depend.
At Natural England, which issued the licence, chairman Andrew Sells says the trial will “allow important evidence to be gathered which, I sincerely hope, will lead to a self-sustaining and well-dispersed breeding population of these beautiful birds across England.”
Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorland Association welcomed the licence, saying: “The Hen Harrier Brood Management Group has sought to provide a pragmatic solution to a proven predator- prey conflict while safeguarding important land use.”
Licence conditions are strict: no eggs or juveniles may be taken unless there are more than two nests within 10km of each other, and any clutch laid after the first has been taken is protected.
Nevertheless, the RSPB says it is “implacably opposed”, calling the idea that the project would help hen harriers “a nonsense”.
“It is about facilitating unsustainably intensive land management which is destroying our uplands,” the charity says. The RSPB’s conservation director Martin Harper blogged of his “deep disappointment” that the Government’s first action since publishing its 25-year action plan was the licence announcement. It will, he wrote, “do nothing to address the primary threat to hen harriers – illegal killing.”
The Heads Up for Harriers initiative in Scotland has put cameras on the nests of these birds to obtain interesting data.