Environmental campaigners opposed to driven grouse shooting and the persecution of upland birds of prey have welcomed news that the National Trust is to terminate the lease of one of its Peak District grouse moors following accusations that the shooting tenant was illegally killing raptors.
The National Trust has given notice that the current shooting leases at Hope Woodlands and Park Hall in Derbyshire will end in April 2018. The charity said it had taken the decision to exercise a break clause in the lease to end the relationship four years early.
Andy Beer, National Trust's Director for the Midlands, said:
"We have a clear vision for land management and wildlife restoration on the High Peak Moors, which was developed in full consultation with our tenants and other key stakeholders."
"All our tenants have signed up to deliver to the vision and understand their responsibilities. We work very closely with our tenants and support, consult and discuss any issues relating to the plan on a regular basis."
"However, in this case we have decided, after a meeting with the tenant, that we should revoke the lease four years early as it became clear that we could no longer have confidence that they were committed to the delivery of our vision for the land."
"We have given the tenant 22 months' notice and will start the process of looking for a replacement in 2017, when we will be happy to receive applications from partners who can demonstrate how moorland management and shooting can deliver great nature conservation in a way that is compatible with public access."
"We remain committed to the High Peak Moors Vision. As with all our conservation aims, we review and evaluate progress periodically. When considering renewals of individual shooting leases in future we will take into careful account the extent to which our objectives have been met, in particular relating to increasing raptor populations."
The subtext here looks like a strong message to the once-all-powerful grouse shooting industry: abide by the National Trust's conservation agenda on land they own, or go elsewhere.
UKH contacted environmental campaigner and blogger Mark Avery for his reaction to the news. Mark has been particularly vocal in opposition to the practise of driven grouse shooting on Britain's uplands, which many believe to be environmentally disastrous.
"Well done NT!" he said.
"They are moving towards a much more sustainable upland ecology. It's their land, which they hold in trust for us all and it's good to see them taking a firm line with tenants who aren't heading in the same direction. I hope others will follow suit. Water companies should be looking at their upland tenants in the same way."
But what's the big deal, we asked him:
"Driven grouse shooting is based on selling shooting days for thousands of pounds per day where hundreds, sometimes thousands, of Red Grouse are killed for fun" he explained.
"It requires intensive moorland management; burning of heather, drainage, predator control and medication if wild Red Grouse. Too often protected wildlife is killed (poisoned, trapped, shot) including Eagles, Hen Harriers, Peregrines, Badgers etc. Intensive management increases flood risk, water treatment costs, greenhouse gas emissions etc etc etc. It's an unsustainable land use, underpinned by wildlife crime, which benefits the few at the expense of the many."
For more from Mark Avery see: markavery.info