Mark Avery on Forest of Bowland AONB Consultation


Please respond to Forest of Bowland AONB consultation

The Forest of Bowland AONB is consulting on its next 5-year plan for 2019-24.  They would like your views by a week today, 25 May.  It’s easy to fill in the short consultation form – takes about 5 minutes.
Have a look at their last plan with its images of Hen Harriers and talk of natural beauty and how that means a lot more than just landscape – click here.
There are very few questions, and most of them are a choice of boxes to tick, but questions 3 and 5 allow free text.  Here are my responses to those questions.
Q3: Hen Harriers – though their numbers are dramatically depleted. This is, as your previous management plan states, ‘the iconic bird of prey of the area’ and yet in the timescale of your previous plan this species has often failed to nest in Bowland. This is, as you know well, your chosen logo – and yet you sit idly by and do nothing for it.  Other National Parks and AONBs have spoken out against raptor persecution in their areas and yet you remain eerily quiet on the subject – it’s almost as though you don’t care. And it’s almost as though you condone what is happening under your noses. That can’t be true surely?

Q5:
Moorland management: management of large areas of Bowland for game shooting is a problem not an asset. Have you noticed how the roads, particularly around Abbeystead in my experience, are littered with released non-native Pheasants which are a road hazard and which in late summer carpet the road with their squashed remains? How is the release of such large numbers of these birds an asset to the natural beauty of the area? There is evidence that Pheasants may contribute to reptile declines (snakes and lizards) – what evidence do you have on the health of Adder and Common Lizard populations in Bowland? A subject on which you could facilitate research?
Bowland is a notorious hotspot for wildlife crimes against protected birds of prey. Your logo is practically extinct in your AONB whereas 30 years ago there were over 20 nesting female Hen Harriers. You cannot sit idly by any longer. Why is the AONB not active in finding solutions to these issues? Why are you not recruiting volunteer rangers to identify wildlife crimes and report them to the police? Why are you not highlighting wildlife crime in your consultation? Why are you not organising local meetings to highlight the problems and seek the public’s help in finding solutions? Why aren’t you doing more? You could facilitate a lot of action but you appear to be complacent and inert over the massive elephant in the room – your AONB is losing its natural beauty because of criminal action by a few.
Visitor experience and information: my visitor experience would be greatly improved by seeing Peregrine Falcons and Hen Harriers in your (my! our!) AONB. What are you going to do to facilitate this?
What plans do you have to change your logo to a dead raptor if things continue as they have done in recent years?