Some critics have questioned the need for a further lengthy study, however. A similar project, the Joint Raptor Study, which was run on Langholm in the 1990s, produced conclusive evidence that the two species are unable to flourish simultaneously.

At the end of the Joint Raptor Study in 1997, grouse shooting on the moor was abandoned. At the LMDP?s launch, Mike Russell, the Scottish Executive?s environment minister, called for an end to the war of words over raptors between the shooting community and non-shooting conservation groups: ?This important moor is actually in danger of failing the objectives of its designation as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, not because it was used as a grouse moor, but because it is no longer worked and managed in that way.? Mr Russell was keen to draw a line under the ?sterile oppositionalism? that he believes is currently tainting progress: ?It is counterproductive and indeed positively harmful to the cause they espouse. Hopefully, what works in Langholm might well work elsewhere.?

The LMDP is being funded by Scottish Natural Heritage, Buccleuch Estates (which owns the moor), the Game Conservancy Trust (GCT), the RSPB and Natural England. The principal aim is to restore the 7,000-hectare moor as a driven grouse moor while maintaining a sustainable population of hen harriers. The project also hopes to provide a model for other moors across the UK. ?This project will, for the first time, fully test to what extent diversionary feeding might allow red grouse stocks to increase in the presence of breeding hen harriers,? commented Teresa Dent, chief executive of the GCT. She added: ?This is an essential step in finding a workable solution to this predation problem. We believe that game management and conservation go hand in hand. Those with an interest in enhancing and sustaining the biodiversity of the uplands will look forward to the project?s eventual findings.?

The rest of this article will appear in the 27 September edition of Shooting Times.