Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Petition Handover

Petition signatures ready and waiting to be handed in.
Yesterday Bob Berzins and Nick Moyes handed over the Moorland Vision's petition to the National Trust on the sedate lawns of Kedleston Hall near Derby.

The petition contained  6,587 signatures and was received by Regional Director for the Midlands, Andy Beer. He undertook to pass them to Dame Helen Ghosh (the NT's CEO) next week.

The meeting was polite and very friendly; it was also very informative.
We made our position clear that our coalition of fifteen local outdoor and environmental groups (and over 6,500 of you) wanted to:

a) praise the National Trust for severing the tenancy of its current grouse shooting tenant, (businessman Mark Osborne) from its Peak District estates around Kinder Scout and Bleaklow, and

b) call upon the Trust not to appoint another shooting tenant, but instead to work with better conservation partners to deliver its own Vision for the High Peak (albeit without the guns).

We expressed our deep disappointment that just the previous day, the Trust had publicly invited tenders for a new shooting tenant. Here's their advert; and here's our take on it.

Andy Beer told us that, because its High Peak Vision document had said it was going to have shooting on its land-holdings in the Peak District, it would have shooting on its land (provided it didn't hinder its laudable conservation goals or public access).

We said the evidence has now clearly demonstrated that moorland management for the hobby of grouse shooting has degraded habitats, damaged landscapes and ecosystem services and been the driver for wildlife crime against raptors (which are barely present any longer across the Dark Peak) and also requires the destruction of all apex predators on the moors. We said that for a conservation body like the Trust this is an out-dated attitude and that, faced with the photo evidence suggesting illegal activity of gunmen on their land, the risk of any new shooting tenant employing the same local individuals was unacceptably high).

Mr Beer assured us that the bar for anyone submitting a tender to shoot on these two iconic moorland estates was set sufficiently high so that only applicants who could demonstrably deliver good conservation outcomes would be eligible. If they didn't, they wouldn't be appointed, he said.

We think there are two ways of looking at this:

Firstly, that the Trust indeed will be going through a fair and strict assessment process, only appointing someone who wants to make money out of closing the moors and shooting grouse on the charity's land if it genuinely does believe it will result in the restoration of these badly degraded habitats.  (Interestingly, he did indicate the Trust would be willing to consider applicants from those who did not intend to shoot grouse for a hobby, but did suggest maybe a farming tenancy might be more appropriate for some of them).

The second way is that the National Trust remains firmly entrenched and hide-bound by its statements about shooting on its land, and that absolutely nothing will change. Or, if it does, that there will still be moorland closures and access restrictions whilst some form of 'walked-up' shooting on these moors is carried out instead, and that there would be no significant change in the moorland shooting issues and wildlife persecution for many more years to come.

Either way, Mr Beer made it abundantly clear that the Trust really didn't need the tiny income it might actually receive from letting out shooting rights to a new tenant on the Hope Woodlands and Park Hall estates. So presumably, businessmen with guns and hired hands are assumed capable of doing a better job of moorland restoration than the National Trust and the other major conservation partners that it could potentially work with? We think not.

Interestingly, Bob and Nick each came away with somewhat different conclusions over the Trust's reasoning. Either way, we are grateful to the National Trust for agreeing to met with us and for listening to our views (and for quickly rescheduling last week's cancelled meeting in North Derbyshire).

Andy Beer, Regional Director (right), being interviewed
for the BBC's Inside Out programme to be broadcast later this year..
It's clear that the Trust has not handled this matter well, and that many people will not join the National Trust until it bans shooting on all of its land-holdings, and that some existing members will resign, and are doing so even now because of this local issue. Banning all shooting was not Moorland Vision's intention: ours has been just to remove grouse shooting and associated intensive moorland mismanagement and wildlife crime from the Dark Peak moors owned by the National Trust. We want instead to see the creation of an imaginative 8,000 hectare rewilding project in the English uplands, delivering the Trust's High Peak Vision, where all species of moorland plant, invertebrate, reptile and bird can thrive, and where anyone seen with a gun or a snare is clearly not acting in the best interest of conservation.

The handover of our petition was filmed by BBC journalist, Simon Hare, as part of an 'Inside Out' piece on these moorland issues which are affecting the reputation of both the National Trust and the Peak District National Park. It is expected to be broadcast in the region later this year.

Note: Although all our petition signatures have now been handed in, because of the continued interest in this issue, we are keeping the online petition open. Your are still welcome to sign it and we may well send an update in time for the National Trust's AGM in October. Find it here.

And here's our take on the Trust's tenancy advert   . . . just in case you have the necessary skills and think it worth applying.

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