RSPB fails to prevent second attempt to reintroduce hen harriers into Southern England - Countryside Alliance

We were delighted to report on the release plans (on Wednesday here) and find this surprising, we assume RSPB has a good reason. We will, of course, include any response from the RSPB when it’s published.

The news that hen harriers are to be bred in captivity for the first time in England, and released on Salisbury Plain in order to improve the range and conservation status of the species, has been welcomed by the Countryside Alliance.

Correspondence from Defra and Natural England that was obtained by the Countryside Alliance under the Freedom of Information Act clearly showed that someone within the RSPB prevented that reintroduction from happening. This was despite Natural England having all the necessary infrastructure and personnel in place at Parsonage Farm on Salisbury Plain to receive the first hen harriers from Spain in 2019, some £300,000 of public money having been allocated to the project in 2017/18 and 2018/19, and the support of local landowners.

The RSPB has likewise attempted to stop the trial brood management of hen harriers, another key part of the Hen Harrier Action Plan, and one that has done more than anything else to increase the population of the species. This year saw 119 hen harrier chicks fledged successfully from 34 nests across the uplands of Northern England, with a total of 344 chicks now fledged since Natural England issued its first licence for the brood management trial in 2018. That is three more than the total of 331 chicks fledged during the previous 18 years. Given the considerable success of brood management, we were extremely pleased that in November 2021, the Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the High Court to dismiss legal challenges that had been bought against the trial by the RSPB, the High Court dismissing their application on all the seven grounds they argued.

With their sabotaging of Natural England’s southern introduction of hen harriers in 2019, and last year’s legal challenge of the trial brood management, the RSPB is clearly trying to disrupt the efforts of those that are working in partnership to improve the hen harrier’s range and conservation status. It is unfortunate that whilst they should be one of the main players in this, they have become little more than an unhelpful hindrance.

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Posted On: 25/11/2022

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