Wednesday, 9 July 2014

For Peat's Sake RSPB - join the party

It will not have escaped the attention of anyone, with an interest in the uplands and access to the Internet, that there have been some acrimonious public exchanges in the last couple of weeks.  The debate has been hotting up around moorland management and raptor persecution. Due to my preference to present positive management issues, this is not an area that the Heather Trust strays into very often, but on this occasion I have been drawn to comment.

For those who want to follow the debate the exchanges are available on the websites - see the RSPB letter, and the Moorland Association reply.

My view of this sort of exchange is that achieves very little apart from a deepening of the trenches from which the bricks are launched, and the birds that the RSPB seeks to protect are the most likely losers from this continuing trench warfare. I do not deny that the land management community needs to get its house in order, but an approach that risks the alienation of every landowner, land manager, gamekeeper and farmer cannot be the best way of making progress. Management may not be perfect, but the owners and managers of land are the only people who can make a difference. We need to encourage a spirit of cooperation, not alienation, and work together.  With a bit of compromise, there is the potential to deliver lasting benefits for all interest groups.

The bog-athon visits described in the previous post illustrate what can be achieved from a little consensus building. This approach may not increase membership numbers or produce column inches in the same way, but in my view it is much more likely to produce lasting benefits for the upland areas and species that we all work to protect and enhance. The bog-athon has started a process, which has the RSPB at its core, that is capable of delivering real progress.

High Peak - damaged peatland
It is extremely confusing and frustrating that on return from a positive meeting of the burning group, I was met by another missive from the RSPB that seeks to ban burning in the Peak District ‘For Peat’s Sake Stop the Burn’.  This promotes a very different and negative message to that coming out of the bog-athon process.  There is a challenge in the Peak District to repair the damage of the past, but we will achieve little by heated exchange.

Perhaps the RSPB needs to get its house in order and decide what it really wants to achieve.  Then the organisation needs to be realistic about how best to do this.  I would be delighted to to support them where our interests overlap (which would be in many places) but the mixed messages coming out of the organisation at the moment make this difficult, or even impossible.

Come on RSPB - it is time to get off your high horse and join the party.  A united moorland management industry could achieve great things.