Last September we asked the statutory conservation agencies Scottish Natural Heritage and Natural England to issue urgent guidance about the use of propane gas guns in the uplands (here). We, and others, were concerned that these devices were being used to prevent hen harriers from nesting on grouse moors.
Both organisations committed to investigating this issue (see here and here) and Natural England promised it would publish this guidance before the start of the 2016 breeding season. It failed to do so.
SNH then managed to issue some contradictory advice (see here) which left us none the wiser.
Now Natural England has finally responded with this:
Thank you for your email, and my apologies for the delay in replying. I am conscious of the concerns that have been expressed around the use of gas guns on some moorlands in England and we have been keen to clarify the legal position around their use.
In doing this, we have found that their use is much wider than solely in the uplands. As a result, we have worked with Scottish Natural Heritage to develop some guidance, setting out the circumstances when permissions may be required for the deployment of gas guns. This is attached for your information.
We are also in discussion with the grouse shooting industry, to develop some best practice principles for the use of gas guns. The aim is to provide simple advice on their deployment, and help to avoid disturbance to birds nesting on protected sites.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further queries, please contact John Barrett at firstname.lastname@example.org, and he will be happy to provide further information.
Are you ready to see the ‘guidance’ that has taken Natural England and SNH nine months to produce? Hold on to your seats, here it is:
In a nutshell, the ‘guidance’ is: make sure your gas gun doesn’t disturb breeding Schedule 1 birds. Oh, and if your grouse moor is part of a SSSI designation, you’ll need to ask permission first.
Yep, that’s it.