Natural England – let’s call the whole thing off!

Photo: Gordon Yates

You may remember that Natural England has been thinking about reintroducing Hen Harriers into southern England for years – huge amounts of time have been spent on this controversial project.

Wild Justice wrote to Natural England in mid June questioning the scientific basis for their plans for a reintroduction project – see here. Tomorrow, Natural England’s Scientific Advisory Committee will consider this project and our comments. But Natural England has told us that tomorrow’s meeting ‘…will help inform the next steps for the Project, including timescales for importing and releasing birds and communications about that.’.

Natural England has told Wild Justice that it ‘… intends to transfer rescued young hen harriers from France later in 2021 or early 2022’ and that it ‘ … is negotiating the transfer of rehabilitated adult hen harriers from Spain later
in 2021 or early 2022.’.

This project is controversial for five main reasons:

  • Natural England has struggled to find a release site that will welcome Hen harriers – this isn’t a very promising situation for a bird that will wander widely in its early years.
  • Many, not all, UK conservationists regard this project as a distraction from Natural England’s real duties to solve the in situ conservation problems facing Hen Harriers in their current English range ie illegal persecution on grouse moors
  • Many, not all, UK conservationists don’t think the reintroduction has a high enough chance of success to make the risks and effort worthwhile
  • Natural England has struggled to find collaborators abroad, in the wide range of the Hen Harrier in continental Europe, who are willing to be associated with this project.
  • The Secretary of Ste for DEFRA, Mr Eustice,announced in May that an England Reintroduction Taskforce is to be set up to set standards and priorities for reintroduction projects – Naural England should not jump the gun.

Natural England has many more important things to do than continue to pursue this vanity project. We hope they’ll just call the whole thing off (and why not call off their equally controversial brood-meddling trial too?).