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Grouse Pave Way for Species Survival

A national spotlight on hen harriers starts the grouse shooting season with England’s moorland owners committed to a £52.5 million annual spend on conservation and seriously threatened species.

As the Glorious Twelfth is celebrated, the industry’s year-round battle to safeguard 860,000 acres of heather moorland for wild red grouse has benefitted some of our most endangered birds.

Robert Benson

Moorland Association chairman Robert Benson

Moorland Association (MA) chairman, Robert Benson, said the country’s first hen harrier chicks for two years had recently fledged in north Lancashire, two of three successful nests on grouse managed land, producing 11 young.

With Defra being urged to publish details of a hen harrier recovery plan, Sunday saw a day dedicated to the country’s much debated bird of prey.

MA members are supporting countryside organisations lobbying for a sustainable increase in the population, along with a crack-down on wildlife crimes.

Cumbrian-based Mr Benson said globally recognised iconic heather moorland was rarer than rainforest and the UK had 75 per cent of what was left of it in the world.

He added: “Its careful game management has seen significant gains in a number of at risk species. Endangered lapwing, curlew, golden plover, ring ouzel, merlin, black grouse and grey partridge all fare far better on moorland with gamekeepers.”

Mr Benson heralded the hen harrier success as another notable milestone in a string of conservation gains.

“We have a vital part to play in stemming the decline of some of our most vulnerable birds,” he explained. “Without shooting income the consequences to wildlife - particularly the scarce ‘red listed’ breeds - would be severe.”

Forecasting an above average season in most areas, Mr Benson says the £67 million industry is responsible for over 1,500 jobs, as well as the remarkable gains for fauna and flora.

He continued: “Shooting creates 42,500 days of work a year. With the prospects of a strong season, associated spin-offs will be in excess of £15 million, essential earnings in challenging economic times.

“So many people benefit, from the food industry to hoteliers, clothing manufacturers to dry stone wallers, the list is endless.”

Grouse shooting results in 700 full-time jobs, with a further 800 linked directly to the industry.

Shooting days can be held from August 12 until December 10 excluding Sundays, but only the surplus population is shot ensuring a healthy wild breeding stock is left for the following year.

“Shooting usually stops well before the official end of the season, but every day is a bonus for the local economy,” explained Mr Benson.

“Despite the success of the breeding season, only a handful of those letting days on a commercial basis will break even due to the great costs involved in managing the moor.

“Working with Natural England, we are committed to restoring blanket bog habitats, damaged by wildfires, over-grazing and historic drainage, which is also mitigating the severe impact of climate change.

“Without grouse moor management, many moors would revert to scrub and forest. Moorland plants, animals and precious landscapes that attract millions of visitors a year would be lost.”

Moorland Association

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