Sunday, 30 July 2017

Bogged down?

(STOP PRESS: Shortly after posting this, we learned that the National Trust are indeed now advertising for another shooting tenant: See here or read Mark Avery's blog here).
Is the National Trust still bogged down over shooting?
On Tuesday morning (1st August) we finally hand over our petition to Andy Beer, the National Trust's Director for the Midlands. In turn, we expect him to pass it to his CEO, Dame Helen Ghosh. Our scheduled meeting last week had to be cancelled at the last minute, though by then news had already been circulated.

This resulted in a further 1,000 signatures being added to the online version of our petition, and is clearly a reflection of the concern people have in not seeing grouse shooting and associated moorland mismanagement, habitat degradation and wildlife persecution continue on the 8,000 hectares of Peak District moorland owned by the National Trust. (These are the iconic moorlands around Kinder Scout, Bleaklow and Ladybower. You'll  remember that in 2016 video evidence emerged of an armed man lying in wait on these moors and that, as a result, businessman Mark Osborne was served notice to quit as the Trust's tenant)

We have emphasised all along that ours has been a local petition, organised by local people around Derbyshire. So it's the 1,308 handwritten signatures collected here that we think really shows the strength of local feeling (of which 38% were NT members, too!). Of course, the 4,500 online ones from Derbyshire and the rest of the UK are most welcome, too!
Thank you to everyone who signed.

Nearly 6,000 signatures have been collected calling for
'no moor shooting' on the Hope Woodlands and Park Hall estates.
Still bogged down?
Despite the brave and very welcome new words emanating from the National Trust in recent years over restoring healthy landscapes for everyone and delivering biodiversity and ecosystem services, we fear the Trust is still bogged down in its antiquated mantra of "where there's been shooting, there will always be shooting (unless it conflicts with the aims of conservation and open access)". The evidence is clearly out there: it does conflict! Where are the adders, the peregrines, the hen harriers and the clubmosses? The Peak National Park Authority banned shooting on its own land-holdings decades ago, but the NT still seems mired in the past in this particular respect.

We (almost) wholeheartedly support the Trust's High Peak Vision (read it here). But their rush to embrace management for grouse shooting on these moors, plus their failure to recognise the depth of feeling and damage to biodiversity that this causes is of grave concern. We don't think that their vision can be fully delivered across all these iconic moorlands if it takes on more shooting tenants and allows them to manage parts of these sensitive estates for the entertainment and profit of a minority.

In a conversation with Mr Beer last week, it still seems, for whatever reason, that the Trust would prefer some form of grouse shooting - and is considering 'walked-up' grouse shooting as a desirable option - rather than manning up and managing the land properly, either on its own or in partnership with other conservation NGOs. We hope this position may soon shift.

Overview of shooting butt distribution in the Peak District
Even if the National Trust does make the sensible decision this summer to work with conservation partners, instead of letting the shooting lobby managing the NT's land-holdings in the Peak District, it won't mean that raptor persecution will suddenly cease, or that adders will return once moor. Nor indeed that sensitive moorland plants reappear immediately, but the ecosystem will gradually recover, and the landscape will improve here. So, if Andy Beer and Jon Stewart from the Peak District Team implement the right decision now, this could well be the start of a great wilderness restoration project, across which no gunman would legally roam, and where burning blanket bog and the placing of medicine-laced grit trays every few hundred yards so as to raise a shootable surplus of grouse, are a thing of the past.

The map above shows all 1,220 grouse butts in the Peak District, with moorland owned by National Trust coloured purple. Think what could be achieved if those guns on NT land fell silent and if all the conservation agencies worked in partnership here to encourage these protected moors to return to a wilder state once again!

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