Public pressure mounts on DEFRA to publish the Hen Harrier Joint Recovery Plan that was completed last January

The e-petition calling for DEFRA to publish the Hen Harrier Joint Recovery Plan has attracted more than 10,000 signatures. In August 2012, DEFRA asked moor owners, gamekeepers and conservation groups, including the RSPB and the GWCT, to work together to produce a plan for the restoration of the hen harrier in England.

The recovery plan was ready to publish in January 2014, however DEFRA hasn’t yet done so. The GWCT’s director of membership, marketing and communications, Andrew Gilruth wrote on the e-petition: “For the sake of the hen harrier, DEFRA must resist external pressure to meddle with the plan. England’s hen harrier population is too fragile to wait any longer.” DEFRA is required to issue a response now that the petition has reached 10,000 signatures.

Meanwhile, DEFRA has responded to a petition calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting. The response to the petition, started by Mark Avery, the RSPB’s former director of conservation, stated: “It has been estimated that £250million per year is spent on management activities that provide
significant benefits for conservation. Shooting makes an important contribution to the rural economy. When carried out in accordance with the law, shooting for sport is a legitimate activity, and our position is that people should be free to undertake lawful activities should they wish to do so.”

The response goes on to talk about the joint recovery plan, but also mentions that it “is encouraging to learn that there are four hen harrier nests this year which have chicks, given that in 2013 there were no known hen harrier fledglings in England.”

Andrew Gilruth told Shooting Times: “After all the years spent gathering the scientific evidence to build a consensus and produce a workable resolution to the genuine wildlife conflict between hen harriers and red grouse, we hope we are nearly there — thanks to all those who signed the online petition, backed by Shooting Times. We hope DEFRA will publish the hen harrier recovery plan so it can be in place for the next breeding season.”

On DEFRA’s response to Mark Avery’s petition, Andrew said: “The recent written response to the e-petition calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting illustrates just how much DEFRA understands all the hard work that goes on to manage our uplands. The list of initiatives they are directly involved in, from tackling crime to peatland restoration, is truly impressive. It is also refreshing that there is no shying away from the economic and conservation value of shooting across the UK.”