Friday, 25 May 2018

Mark Avery on Forest of Bowland AONB Consultation


Please respond to Forest of Bowland AONB consultation

The Forest of Bowland AONB is consulting on its next 5-year plan for 2019-24.  They would like your views by a week today, 25 May.  It’s easy to fill in the short consultation form – takes about 5 minutes.
Have a look at their last plan with its images of Hen Harriers and talk of natural beauty and how that means a lot more than just landscape – click here.
There are very few questions, and most of them are a choice of boxes to tick, but questions 3 and 5 allow free text.  Here are my responses to those questions.
Q3: Hen Harriers – though their numbers are dramatically depleted. This is, as your previous management plan states, ‘the iconic bird of prey of the area’ and yet in the timescale of your previous plan this species has often failed to nest in Bowland. This is, as you know well, your chosen logo – and yet you sit idly by and do nothing for it.  Other National Parks and AONBs have spoken out against raptor persecution in their areas and yet you remain eerily quiet on the subject – it’s almost as though you don’t care. And it’s almost as though you condone what is happening under your noses. That can’t be true surely?

Q5:
Moorland management: management of large areas of Bowland for game shooting is a problem not an asset. Have you noticed how the roads, particularly around Abbeystead in my experience, are littered with released non-native Pheasants which are a road hazard and which in late summer carpet the road with their squashed remains? How is the release of such large numbers of these birds an asset to the natural beauty of the area? There is evidence that Pheasants may contribute to reptile declines (snakes and lizards) – what evidence do you have on the health of Adder and Common Lizard populations in Bowland? A subject on which you could facilitate research?
Bowland is a notorious hotspot for wildlife crimes against protected birds of prey. Your logo is practically extinct in your AONB whereas 30 years ago there were over 20 nesting female Hen Harriers. You cannot sit idly by any longer. Why is the AONB not active in finding solutions to these issues? Why are you not recruiting volunteer rangers to identify wildlife crimes and report them to the police? Why are you not highlighting wildlife crime in your consultation? Why are you not organising local meetings to highlight the problems and seek the public’s help in finding solutions? Why aren’t you doing more? You could facilitate a lot of action but you appear to be complacent and inert over the massive elephant in the room – your AONB is losing its natural beauty because of criminal action by a few.
Visitor experience and information: my visitor experience would be greatly improved by seeing Peregrine Falcons and Hen Harriers in your (my! our!) AONB. What are you going to do to facilitate this?
What plans do you have to change your logo to a dead raptor if things continue as they have done in recent years?

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Justice for Hen Harriers! #justice4henharriers


Mark Avery
I'm an author and environmental campaigner. One of my passions is ending the illegal persecution of a wonderful bird called the Hen Harrier.



We've reached our funding target
March 2, 2018
We did it - together!  Over 900 of us have raised the money needed to mount our judicial review against Natural England.
And it took four and a half days.  You are amazing!
The speed with which the total was reached just shows how strongly people feel about this issue. We are doing our bit to get #justice4henharriers.
Thank you - that's all I can say. THANK YOU!
Read More >>
I'm one of a group of like-minded campaigners seeking a better deal for threatened wildlife. We need your support to challenge the government to do more, and do the right things, for a persecuted bird, the Hen Harrier.
Hen Harriers are wonderful birds which are in danger of disappearing from England. The reason is simple: illegal persecution on grouse moors (because they eat Red Grouse that people want to shoot for fun). Cracking down on this wildlife crime is the key to giving the Hen Harrier a better future, but the Westminster government is doing far too little about that.
Instead of tackling the key issue of criminality, Michael Gove's Department for the Environment (DEFRA) has proposed something called 'brood management' which involves removing chicks from nests near grouse moors. That might help grouse moor owners but it won't help Hen Harriers.  See this article in The Guardian, and this blog for more details. It's a bizarre proposal and I believe it is illegal because alternative sensible and effective actions are available.
So I'm initiating a judicial review of Natural England's decision to issue a licence enabling brood management to go ahead.
Persecuted wildlife can't hire lawyers so we must do it for them and I've got some great lawyers together to fight for the Hen Harrier - they are really keen to get justice for this bird (and have been captivated by this video of the male Hen Harrier's skydancing display).  But I need your help to pay the court costs, the costs if we lose (nothing is certain) and at least some of our lawyers' costs (they have kindly agreed to work at heavily discounted rates).  The first stage is to raise £5000 to start the process rolling but we need to raise another £20,000 to see this through to the end.  Please help start things off by donating today - right now please, if you can.
Hen Harriers need justice - you can help them get it.

I'll give regular updates on how things are going - here and on my blog Standing up for Nature. If we raise more money than is needed, the additional funds will be held for up to a year and spent on other legal work to benefit Hen Harriers or other environmental causes.  Thank you.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

New initiative to target the raptor killers in North Yorkshire

How about this for proper, proactive, genuine partnership working to tackle illegal raptor killing in North Yorkshire, one of the UK’s most prolific raptor persecution hotspots.
This is really encouraging. There’s no obsfuscation here, just a clear acknowledgement that raptors are still being illegally killed in North Yorkshire and an equally clear intention from all the project partners that this will no longer will be tolerated.
Well done North Yorkshire Police, RSPB, RSPCA, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and North York Moors National Park Authority.
Press release from North Yorkshire Police, 17 February 2018:
It’s “talons out” for raptor persecutors as North Yorkshire Police launches Operation Owl
Police are urging visitors to North Yorkshire’s countryside to get involved with Operation Owl – a new initiative to reduce the number of illegal attacks on birds of prey in the county.
Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act it is an offence to intentionally kill, injure or take wild birds. Nevertheless birds of prey (raptors) are still shot, poisoned and trapped – especially in areas where the land is managed for driven grouse shooting.
North Yorkshire has more confirmed incidents of raptor persecution than any other county in England – a situation that North Yorkshire Police is determined to tackle.
Launching on 17 February, Operation Owl is a joint initiative by North Yorkshire Police, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the RSPCA, together with the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks.

As part of the Operation, police will carry out surveillance checks on known raptor persecution hot-spots at random times to disrupt offender activity, and work with local landowners to make them aware of the legal position on raptor persecution. National Park volunteers will be trained to spot poisoned bait and illegal traps across the parks and the police are also calling on the public to be the eyes and ears of the police when out in the countryside.
North Yorkshire Police’s Chief Constable, Dave Jones, is the national lead on wildlife and rural crime, and the Force has what is believed to be the largest dedicated rural taskforce in the country.
Sergeant Kevin Kelly is part of that rural taskforce.  He said:
Our wonderful countryside is host to many specially-protected birds of prey such as peregrine falcons, red kites, buzzards and owls.  It is absolutely unacceptable that people think they can ignore the law and subject these birds to poisonings, shootings, nest destruction and the illegal use of spring traps without consequence. We will be doing everything in our power to catch these offenders, supported by our colleagues in the RSPB and the volunteers in the national parks. But the area is huge, so the more eyes and ears we have on the ground the better. That’s why we’re asking the public to help.”
In particular, the police are asking the public to spot pole traps.  Sergeant Kelly explained:
Trappers are using spring-loaded traps on top of posts to capture birds of prey that land on top of the post. The bird can struggle for many hours before the trapper returns to kill them. These pole traps, as they are called, are illegal. We want the public to help us find these traps. We’re advising that anyone who sees a pole trap should “spring” it if they can do so safely, note the location, take a photo, and call the police on 101 to report it. Our wildlife officers will take it from there.”
Operation Owl will run for the next year, and North Yorkshire Police is hoping that the initiative will become a blueprint for other Forces where there is a high incidence of raptor persecution.
Said Sergeant Kelly:
Like other forms of rural crime, raptor persecution is not a problem that the police can tackle alone. We need everyone involved. The weather will soon start to improve and more people will head out to the countryside.  If everyone keeps their eyes open for illegal traps and poisoned bait, it will be a massive boost to our surveillance operation. This is a real opportunity to reduce the number of wild birds that suffer and die unnecessarily, and send a clear message to offenders that we will not tolerate this crime in our countryside.”
Commenting on Operation Owl, Guy Shorrock, RSPB Senior Investigations Officer, said:
The landscape of North Yorkshire attracts huge numbers of visitors every year. Unfortunately, it also has a terrible history for the illegal shooting, trapping and poisoning of birds of prey. We are proud to support North Yorkshire Police with this initiative and would ask people to report any concerns to them. If people want to speak in confidence about raptor persecution they can contact us on 0300 9990101“.
Andy Wilson, Chief Executive of the North York Moors National Park Authority, said:
Raptors are beautiful. They are an essential part of our National Parks, but their numbers have been diminished over many years by persecution from shooting interests. We urge everyone to help prevent illegal persecution and welcome Operation Owl, which the National Park Authority is actively supporting.”
David Butterworth, CEO of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, said:
The monitoring data, the number of confirmed persecution incidents and the absence of some species from large areas of potentially suitable habitat provide compelling evidence for an uncomfortable conclusion:  illegal persecution is limiting the populations of some species of birds of prey in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.  I’d like to appeal to the public to join in Operation Owl to help bring about the changes in attitudes that are so urgently needed.  Only through collective action can the persecution be stopped.
ENDS
The partners have released a short video to help members of the public to recognise some common signs that raptor persecution is taking place:

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Remembering and Restoring Roeburn