Guest blog from Rob Yorke
Conservation hang-ups: be braver, bolder!
(This version with full refs posted by RY on @scribd)
18 Jul 2013
Before travelling to the Game Fair this weekend, I welcome a guest blog from Rob Yorke, rural commentator and hunter/naturalist. Have a read and delighted to hear your views.
Conservation hang-ups; be braver, bolder!
This year the RSPB will have its usual presence at theGame Fair , one of the UK’s largest annualrural events. Some may have expected the RSPB just to attendBirdfair , but recognition that thecountryside is a melting pot of multipleland usesdemands, requires engagement in dialogue.Little terns and pheasants both benefit from electric fences; but we tend to get ‘hung up’ on thedifferences betweenEU fundedprotection of terns from foxes and shooting interests keeping foxesout of pheasant release pens.We cannot ignore both the huge financial costs of conservation and the environmental impact of poor shooting practices. There is much common ground between conservation and shooting that couldresult in biodiversity being the first beneficiary, before we ‘profit’ from recreational ‘cultural ecosystemservices’ of shooting and birdwatching.The RSPB’s Game Fair theme this year is woodland – managing them to ‘provide for wildlife, peopleand the economy’ and you can’t manage woodland without cutting down trees (unless you let your wood take an unpredictable Monbiot-stylerewildingcourse).The same interventionist principle applies to nature conservation.Deep pockets are required to start managing woodland before major benefits accrue to wildlife, letalone to the economy.Grey squirrelsare a major threat to broadleaf woodlands - as red deer are toCaledonian pine forests – and the benefit of onsite shooting interests assisting in woodlandmanagement, are considerably cheaper than bringing in hired ‘guns’. We need, as Sir John Lawton put bluntly, to get more conservation bang for our buck
. Especiallyduring austerity and reduced funding from Europe.Science puts a case within the complex interaction of habitat and predators, that intervention may bea necessity in modern conservation practice. Habitat management on our crowded island isnotenough. The RSPB and shooting interests both lethallycontrol wildlife- whether by egg oiling,
Larsen trapping or shooting – and Lawton himself encourages us to ‘get on with it [predator control]
’.The shooting lobby must self regulate. The release of high densities of pheasantsmust change. Theculture of what guns pay for must change. Less birds, higher standards, more habitat for wildpheasants and wider benefit to biodiversity and forestry. Those that persecute raptors must beostracised. Shooting organisations could seek funding looking at ways of reducing predator impacton shoots – similar to Defra’s research into reducingraptor conflictswith rural livelihoods elsewhere. There are some who cannot understand how those that shoot have a deep knowledge and love of nature; even after Sir Peter Scott gave up wildfowling, he said thewildness of the huntwas integralto his love of nature. Conservationists must not mistakenly snuff out that hunting instinct which also