Thank you for writing to me regarding hen harrier and raptor persecution which I too believe is a deeply concerning and serious criminal offence.
Having looked into the government’s strategy regarding hen harriers specifically, I was pleased that a significant financial commitment was made in 2016 to reintroduce and protect hen harriers in The Hen Harrier Action Plan.
It is my understanding that as more birds are tagged and tracked, the location of the populations of hen harriers will be more easily identified and this will ensure enforcement of their protection will become more effective.
The government hopes to achieve a self-sustaining and well dispersed breeding population in England across a range of habitats including a viable population present in the Special Protected Areas designated for hen harrier. The plan will also facilitate the hen harrier population coexisting with local business interests and its presence contributing to a thriving rural economy.
I believe it is vitally important that the reintroduction of flora and fauna native to the UK is considered if it has been allowed to become extinct through human interference. Without this, our commitments to preserving and restoring UK ecosystems would be incomplete.
I believe Natural England’s ambition to introduce a brood management scheme, provide alternative feeding sites and track the population location will allow coexistent with successful grouse shooting sites. I welcome the commitment to actively enforce protection of nesting and active habitat and am aware of the fact that Natural England places significant restrictions and consideration into their issuing of gamebird shooting licenses.
Natural England will also report annually on progress on all six actions to the Defra Uplands Stakeholder Forum and also copy this to the UK Tasking and Co-ordinating Group for Wildlife Crime.
All wild birds are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, with strong penalties for committing offences against birds of prey and other wildlife.
The government takes wildlife crime very seriously and has identified raptor persecution as a national wildlife crime priority, focusing on hen harrier, golden eagle, goshawk, peregrine, red kite and whitetailed eagle. The Hen Harrier Action Plan includes work with enforcement agencies to tackle incidents of illegal persecution.
Other organisations such Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, National Parks UK and Raptor Groups should be able to support any necessary action in the field both at nest and roost sites. The Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group will be tasked to help drive forward necessary action.
Thank you for writing to me regarding this matter which I will continue to follow closely. I believe it is vital the government does all it can to protect native species in our diverse countrysides, such as we enjoy here in the Derbyshire Dales.