The RSPB does an amazing amount of work with partners across the four countries of the UK, the UK Overseas Territories and internationally for a wide variety of species, habitats and places. In this blog, I try to give a taste of the breadth and diversity of this work. However, over the years I have frequently returned to one particular bird.
The hen harrier has taken up more blog posts than any other, and for good reason. Its conservation plight epitomises much of what is wrong with our own species' relationship with nature.
A female hen harrier, RSPB Geltsdale (photo by the RSPB's new Head of Investigations, Mark Thomas: rspb-images.com)
The challenges facing this species will be well known to readers of this blog: the hen harrier now occurs at such appallingly low numbers across the UK because they are illegally killed to maximise the number of grouse that can be killed on driven moors across England and Scotland.
The RSPB has been calling and fighting for change for many years. So have many others.
When brood management was first suggested as a possible measure for hen harriers, the RSPB was very clear in its objection. And when Natural England announced at the beginning of the year that they had issued a licence permitting the trial of brood management the RSPB repeated those serious objections.
We objected on scientific and philosophical grounds. Brood management involves removing hen harrier chicks from driven grouse moors once breeding numbers begin to impact significantly on numbers of red grouse for shooting. We believe that the first step in hen harrier recovery should be the cessation of illegal killing. This way, harriers would begin to recover naturally and we could then look at other measures. Without that recovery, the hen harrier is at best, destined to be a rare moorland breeder and at worst will be lost from the English uplands altogether.
We also objected on legal grounds. Which is why we very clear that we would contest a decision that we felt to be fundamentally wrong. While legal challenges are always a last resort for us. and we never take these decision lightly, when red lines have been crossed we will act. And that is why we sought a judicial review of the Natural England license for a trial of a brood management scheme for hen harriers.
Today sees the culmination of that process as the hearing for our judicial review of the NE plans reaches the High Court.
It is right that the arguments will be heard and we will then await for the judgement.
I will say more once we know the outcome.
I think it is worth also noting that I'm aware that, as illustrated in the following web page:http://www.blplaw.com/expert-legal-insights/articles/criminal-justice-courts-act-2015-judicial-review the RSPB should consider informing it's members along these lines: "The potential liability of interveners for costs set out in CJCA 2015, s 87 may make some interveners pause for thought before intervening, perhaps deciding instead to assist one of the principal parties behind the scenes instead of seeking active involvement in the case. Others, however, will be confident of not falling foul of the new tests in CJCA 2015, s 87(6) and will continue with a planned intervention." If we are aware why you are reluctant to take action, such action by others (and I'd like to pay tribute to mark Avery who goes well above and beyond what might b expected) could be supported from afar by the RSPB by a simple statement without the risks of any action which you might undertake. A similar case might also be made for greater support from the RSPB in advising that you might draw the attention of members to actions which may risk a report to the Charities commission and the like. Members may well be less inclined to criticise the RSPB for it's lack of campaigning vigour. I for one, would have been happy had you drawn attention to, and perhaps praised, the Judicial review application by Mark but stated why you felt unable to undertake such action yourself.
Thanks for replying. I already understood how your system would of necessity have a time delay.
Hi Alex, it didn't quite happen as you describe. Mark and I were in touch very early on and he was aware that we had our internal due process to follow which included engaging our trustees who are ultimately accountable for RSPB policy and how we apply it to cases such as these. This process still resulted in our decision to mount a legal challenge by which time Mark had already launched his.
I hope that the RSPB and Mark Avery are able to get their case across. It seems cut and dried to me but I don't know the workings of the law.
I'm a strong supporter of the RSPB. It still rankles with me, however, that in February when Mark Avery had already decided to take on a legal challenge, the RSPB did not indicate that they would be doing the same, or suggest cooperation. The RSPB is strong at the moment on partnerships, but not, it appears, on this occasion.
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