The National Trust has just gone from zero to hero in a move that will send shock waves throughout the grouse-shooting industry and will draw wide acclaim from conservationists.
You may remember at the end of April this year we published a video of an armed man, sitting next to a decoy hen harrier, on a grouse moor in the Peak District National Park (see here). This grouse moor was one of three owned by the National Trust within the National Park, and was leased to a previously unnamed shooting tenant (but see below).
In our opinion, this video depicted somebody lying in wait for a passing hen harrier to come in and mob the decoy bird, bringing the live bird in to close enough range to be shot.
Blog readers from here and from Mark Avery’s website (here) were encouraged to contact the National Trust and ask them what they thought was going on in this video and what they intended to do about it. We know that many of you did just that. The National Trust responded (here) and said they were launching an investigation after the police investigation had failed to make progress.
A couple of weeks later we contacted the National Trust again and asked for an update. We speculated whether they’d be bold or whether they’d bottle it (here). To be honest, we fully expected them to bottle it, as so many other organisations have done when it comes to standing up against the grouse-shooting industry.
We were wrong, and have never been so happy to be wrong! The National Trust has just issued the following statement, and what a statement it is, in every sense of the word:
National Trust Public Statement:
The National Trust has today given notice that the current shooting leases at Hope Woodlands and Park Hall in Derbyshire will end in April 2018.
The charity said it had taken the decision to exercise a break clause in the lease to end the relationship four years early.
Andy Beer, National Trust’s Director for the Midlands, said: “We have a clear vision for land management and wildlife restoration on the High Peak Moors, which was developed in full consultation with our tenants and other key stakeholders.
All our tenants have signed up to deliver to the vision and understand their responsibilities. We work very closely with our tenants and support, consult and discuss any issues relating to the plan on a regular basis.
However, in this case we have decided, after a meeting with the tenant, that we should revoke the lease four years early as it became clear that we could no longer have confidence that they were committed to the delivery of our vision for the land.
We have given the tenant 22 months’ notice and will start the process of looking for a replacement in 2017, when we will be happy to receive applications from partners who can demonstrate how moorland management and shooting can deliver great nature conservation in a way that is compatible with public access.
We remain committed to the High Peak Moors Vision. As with all our conservation aims, we review and evaluate progress periodically. When considering renewals of individual shooting leases in future we will take into careful account the extent to which our objectives have been met, in particular relating to increasing raptor populations.”
Jon Stewart, General Manager, Peak District National Trust
This is a ground-breaking move from the National Trust. It’s a huge decision! Basically the NT is saying that it will no longer tolerate the illegal persecution of raptors, whether suspected or actual, on land that it leases to grouse-shooting tenants. It also won’t tolerate the environmentally-devastating impacts of intensively managed driven grouse moors. Let’s hope the next tenant is someone who prefers the far less damaging ‘walked-up’ style of grouse shooting instead.
So finally, after all these years, we now have an organisation that is prepared to be bold and stand up against the previously untouchable grouse-shooting industry! And not just on this grouse moor, which, incidentally, is currently-but-not-for-much-longer managed by Mark Osborne, a name that has often cropped up on this blog and in other media (try Google if you don’t know who he is), but also on other NT-leased grouse moors. Look at that final sentence of the NT statement; if raptor populations are not allowed to recover on these driven grouse moors, tenants can expect their leases to also be pulled.
The NT deserves every plaudit coming its way for this decision and we’d encourage as many of you as possible to contact Jon Stewart and congratulate him and the NT on such a courageously pioneering move. Emails please to: Jon.Stewart@nationaltrust.org.uk
Not everyone is happy with the NT’s decision, not least the Moorland Association (the representative body of grouse moor owners in England). The Moorland Association has issued the following statement in response to the NT’s news:
STATEMENT from Moorland Association chairman, Robert Benson:
The Moorland Association is very sad that the National Trust has taken the decision to terminate a sporting lease early. This is the result of a breakdown in confidence in the current tenant’s commitment to the delivery of NT’s Vision and will take effect in April 2018.
We are, however, delighted that the NT has recognised the importance of grouse shooting to help deliver its High Peak Vision and is putting in place a new shooting tenant in order to deliver this.
The MA will do all it can to help this process.
What’s hilarious about this statement, apart from them being “very sad”, (remember their anagram? ‘A Sad Morons’ Coalition’) is the headline they’ve used on their website to announce their statement. It reads:
“National Trust supports grouse shooting on its land”.
If ever you needed a perfect example of the lengths the grouse-shooting industry will go to to spread idiotic propaganda and spin, this has to be it!
It’s also amusing to note that they’ve quoted the National Trust’s statement, but have conveniently ‘forgotten’ to include the last paragraph about how NT leases are unlikely to be renewed in future if there’s no sign of a recovery of raptor populations on those grouse moors.
Unlike the Moorland Association, we are, of course, VERY HAPPY with the NT’s news, and not least because it’s a clear demonstration of the influence public pressure can have. Without doubt, the NT’s decision has been made as a direct result of the public’s response to that video nasty filmed on NT land. Hats off to the two birdwatchers who had the wit to film what they were seeing, to the person who sent us that video and asked us to publish it, and to all of you who responded and contacted the National Trust to let them know how strongly you felt. This is a massive result and you all played a big part.
The e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting can be signed HERE
BBC news here
Mark Avery blog here