Amanda Anderson, Director of the Moorland Association, responds to RSPB open letter.
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30 June, 2014

Dr Mike Clarke
Chief Executive, RSPB
The Lodge
SG19 2DL

Dear Mike,

The Moorland Association welcomes the RSPB’s support for sustainable grouse moors that “provide a safe home for birds of prey and other threatened species” and agrees that “our amazing upland wildlife” needs our collective care. Thank you for your letter.

I can assure you that the aim of the Moorland Association is to encourage and promote the conservation and enhancement of the ecology and natural beauty of heather moorland.  We take great pride in the flora and fauna that are doing well under the careful management of our members; the black grouse, ring ouzel, merlin, lapwing, golden plover and curlew are just a few amber or red listed birds that have refuges on driven grouse moors.  All are benefiting directly from grouse moor gamekeepers undertaking predator control and habitat management funded by grouse shooting.

As red grouse are wild, sympathetic management of the moors is all our members can do to safeguard the population and encourage a viable surplus to then be harvested by shooting. With that in mind, it makes no sense to deliberately ‘damage or destroy’ the very habitat on which the grouse depend. 

Over 70% of grouse moors are designated as SSSI for flora and fauna largely delivered by the way grouse moors have been managed so well over the last 200 years, with 96% in favourable recovering condition. Clearly, there is still room for improvement, but with designation comes regulation and the Moorland Association feels that a further regulatory framework is at least unnecessary red tape and at worst could be damaging to the huge progress now being made with statutory and other bodies on peatland restoration on grouse moors. Equally, the hen harrier conflict is well recognised and we hope to see Defra’s Joint Recovery Plan, which you have helped write, signed off and implemented so that we can build on the success of this year’s breeding on moorland managed for red grouse in Bowland across England in a sustainable way.

The definition of what sustainable and successful land management in the uplands looks like is perhaps the nub of the question that needs answering.  The Moorland Association, whose members look after one fifth of the uplands of England and Wales, need to work with you and other partners and through constructive dialogue create a Code of Practice for all upland land managers based on clear outcomes that also take into consideration the multiple objectives of the land use; be they water quality, conservation, agriculture, access and grouse moor management. Surely a healthy abundance of a suite of waders and an economically thriving local upland community are just as important as re-wetting the moors and encouraging sphagnum moss growth to clean water and lock up carbon?

This is challenging work, but I am sure we are more than tenacious enough to rise to it and rediscover the common ground that I think we still share. 

The Chairman and I look forward to meeting you to discuss in the near future.

Yours sincerely,

Amanda Anderson BSc., MSc., PGCE
Company Registered in England and Wales: 8977402


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