Monday, 30 March 2015

~


How They Play With Us


The statement from RSPB*/Eastern Moors dated 13th March was issued only to those expressing concern about their cull. And that came only after the cull was publicised by Friends of Blacka Moor in the Sheffield Telegraph and on the Sheffield Forum. That indicates an intention to keep the decision quiet and only to respond if the whistle was blown. It’s categorically not transparency.  In fact it indicates a disrespect for the public, some may say contempt. The implication is that people in general cannot be trusted to understand their actions in these complex matters.
(Just think if voting in general elections was organised in this way: Parties keep their plans close to their chests and only disclose when put under pressure, leaving most of us ‘plebs’ in the dark.)

The statement comes across as carefully calibrated almost certainly with help from RSPB’s high command amongst its bureaucratariat at The Lodge where, of course, there’s no direct knowledge of local situations but ample experience of managing people.

It confirms that conservation industry operatives feel qualified to act as God. As we know “God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform” so has no obligation to justify his actions.

I rather like this comment on a bible website
I absolutely love this verse. God is always doing things and Im always asking why... i never understand. But what he does is always for a reason. I may not understand right now but later I will.”
That sums up the attitude most large organizations hope to see in their supporters.

Let’s just examine one of the arguments RSPB puts forward in this statement to justify a shooting policy:
If left unchecked the deer numbers will grow to a point where the deer themselves over utilise the resources on the moors and have to spread further afield to find food and shelter, reducing the amount  of wildlife the moors can support
This is assuming they spend all their time already on Big Moor. Some may, but others already wander across further parts of Sheffield Moors as acknowledged earlier in the statement. There’s no indication that the management understands the balance across the whole area of deer impact nor any idea that they  have considered impacts on Blacka and elsewhere. Nor do they tell us that farm animals will be removed!

Another fine touch is the conclusion:
the cull will be:
carried out by professionals in deer management in a sensitive and respectful way to both deer and other wildlife on site, with minimal disruption to how the public enjoy the moors
Hands up those who believe the person who wrote this had personal experience of the conscientiousness and humane approach of the men with guns. Imaginations must be racing away trying to put an image to this respectful shooting. Will prayers be said for example? And shouldn't something be added at the end, such as .......

 "...minimal disruption to how the public enjoy the moors .. and their roast venison"

* National Trust is an equal partner.

Something Missing


Somewhere the antler seekers may be lucky enough to find them.

Sadly the trees savagely butchered by SRWT will not return in a season if at all.
Some indication of what's gone:


Saturday, 28 March 2015

Extremists at Work


The Middle East has its Isis and Taliban. We have our conservation industry. I bet Isis calls what it does management. While iconoclasts are destroying beautiful works of human endeavour at Nineveh  and Bamiyan  and Mosul we have our own Taliban destroying the best that nature can give us. The cultural fundamentalists whose creed is destruction while sophistically calling it 'management' are alive and well and operating on Blacka Moor. They have the gall to talk about cultural landscapes.


We had thought we could keep the nastier side of the world out during our visits to a place where nature had held sway for several generations. Nature had been restoring in its own way what the ruling classes had arrogantly annexed and turned into a once or twice a year playground for those who 'loved' ground nesting birds - so they could shoot them.  We were wrong. Another class of exploiters was to move in driven by a new ideology that resented anything that was a challenge to their blinkered view and so was intent on destroying it.


I've been called negative before now by these iconoclasts. What is a clearer illustration of negativity than destruction of beautiful things?

So we've already had a beheading, gunslinging hitmen are prowling on the Eastern Moors and probably in adjoining farmland, and the tree-haters are laying waste Blacka itself.



This is what you get when you hand over your finest things to small minded and inadequately educated people and fail to watch over what they are doing.


At moments like this you realise that all the criticism you've directed at the lousy management has been seriously misconceived. We've assumed, because we like to think the best of people, that things could not get worse. We wanted to believe the horrors resulted more from cockup than calculation. But SRWT is not what we thought it was. We underestimated. They are in fact much much worse.

The jihadist fringe is still here and raring to go and without any conscience. It's a mistake to assume that they must share our values because they are middle class. They don't, and a veneer of respectability is no more a guide than it would be with a crooked financier. A belief that they have a concept of acting for the general good is just evidence of our own naivete. They are in it for what they can get out of it in much the same way as the game shoot landowners.

We remember that day when we discovered that scores of native wild trees had been poisoned and had been left standing as a proud record of the conservation credentials of one Chris Doar, the then reserve manager. After a long gap she is now sharing responsibility here. It’s not too wild a guess that she might be behind this deforestation.

Her fellow jihadist fundamentalist is one Nigel Doar, marriage partner and mainly remembered as a SWT Chief Executive fond of using ad hominem criticism and even defamation as a means to an end. We had thought he had moved to ‘empires new’ but, regrettably,  he’s still here, surely relishing the potential for vindictiveness in the current wildlife bashing.

And we remember, too, the Head of Operations at SRWT (and enthusiastic MTBer) Roy Mosley . He sits below the Chief Exec and must have a role in deciding which bits of nature are expendable. He it was who took it upon himself to inform the SMP steering group that the Blacka RAG was fully behind SMPs plans. Melton Mowbray has a word for it.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Monday, 23 March 2015

National Trust and Sheffield's Parks


6th March last year, response to Freedom of Information request asking for details of meetings between SCC and National Trust with a view to getting NT to manage and/or lease Sheffield parks.

"There have been no meetings with the National Trust on proposals for the
management or leasing of council land by the trust."


In today's Times (behind paywall)

"National Trust to help run council parks"
The National Trust will help to preserve Britain’s public parks with a new strategy that focuses less on historic country houses and more on urban green spaces. ......................
The concept will be tested in Sheffield, where officials are working with the city council to protect and enhance 70 public parks and urban spaces.


As yet no information on this at all from Sheffield. Sheffield Star newspaper has nothing. They may get round to it if it develops a football angle.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Peppa Pig Next

Notices like this are appearing on the moors. The assumption is that the mental age of visitors to Blacka and the moors is about the same as that of the managers and those responsible for the patronising graphics. A previous incarnation of this message told visitors to "Get A Grip!"

A few years ago I wrote a letter to the Peak District Local Access Forum about dog walking. I had got wind of a move from the representative of the Moorland Association trying to get the LAF to demand that all dog walking be banned on land designated as SSSI in the Peak. This offended my sense of fairness and I duly made my own representations in opposition. It annoyed me that I had only found out about this by some kind of fluke. I also knew that Blacka had been made SSSI only through an administrative cockup in the designation process rather than careful weighing up of the evidence and special circumstances. Somewhere I've got a copy of my letter but, for the moment, my word will have to be taken that it contained a comprehensive list of reasons why the Moorland Assn's case should be rejected. It was. But among the other comments in my letter I mentioned that many people came to holiday in this national park and often brought their dogs with them. When they got here they found the place distinctly unwelcoming: warnings about dogs everywhere, impossible stiles for dogs and routes that started off accessible and then ran into 'no dogs here' notices plus many other things. Amazingly nobody seemed to have thought about this before.

The upshot was that something happened. Probably other people had expressed similar views and alongside my letter this led to some under-occupied bureaucrats deciding they could develop a project and get funding for their jobs and perhaps other people's too. The result was this Paws on the Moors scam, an offshoot of that even bigger scam Moors for the Future. The Heritage Lottery Fund and others coughed up the dosh and a website was born plus lots of publicity handouts, educational material (indoctrination to you and me) etc.

The Paws on the Moors people will probably point to great things they have done for paths for dog walkers, of which I've yet to see the evidence. But the central problem remains as it always was. Under the assumed guise of being dog and dog walker friendly they are actually propagandising for the same landowning interests that have always ruled here. For the five months of the year when people are most likely to want to enjoy the great outdoors with their dogs they are being told dogs must be on leads. In the case of Blacka this is on a place set aside for being a 'public walks and pleasure ground' to distinguish it from surrounding moors, and a place where recreation must take precedence over 'conservation'.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Chain Saw Vandalism

Bad news follows bad news.

I can't find any more words for feelings when coming across the latest evidence of SRWTs activities here. The sooner someone finds a way of removing them from Blacka the better. There should be an embargo on their stepping onto the site.


A line of mature and beautiful native trees, a superb component of the landscape, has been put to the chain saw by those who have absolutely no respect for wildlife.


These trees are holly, pine and birch, some 18 inches across. They have a particular resonance in the minds of those who love Blacka. We have watched them through the seasons for many years and welcomed the part they have played in the lives of songbirds and cuckoos and many other forms of wildlife.


These acts of vandalism against wildlife could only have been performed by those for whom wild nature has no part in their lives outside wage earning destruction. Perhaps they spend all their leisure hours playing war games in which wanton violence is the norm.

This feels like the beginning of serious depression.

As one regular walker here said "Time to resign from the human race".

Friday, 20 March 2015

Colour


More thrilling than planted daffodils, for this writer.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Far Over the Top - Grim Welcome to Blacka


Why do so many things get worse?

The Far Nova stables and livery are hardly making a visit to Blacka along Shorts Lane as attractive an experience as possible.


For many many years this used to be a pleasant and relaxing experience walking down Shorts Lane towards the lovely quiet streamside walk at Blacka's lowest level. In recent months it's become more like entering a militarised zone.


 What next? Gun patrols? and "Who goes there?". How utterly depressing. Notices are everywhere, shouting at us and threatening us with police action, guard dogs, legal sanctions and CCTV. Yet this used to be a delightful approach to Blacka. Now we would have more fun visiting Pentonville.


The visual impact of the stables is now much greater than in previous years with large containers helping to give an industrialised look as you approach. Notices contribute to an in-your-face aggressive tone. No more the old world relaxed atmosphere. We don't value enough the attractions of some places until they have gone.

It saps away the will to live almost as much as SWT's barbed wire.


Notices are plastered all over trees in the lane. I had thought this was public land.   And this tree can't take any more.

It also looks as if the notices refer to the lane to the left which is the public route to Blacka.

I have now heard from the farmer that the land is actually his on which the bridleway runs***(see below. That certainly needs looking into being contrary to what we had always thought.

And the justification for it all? Apparently some incidents have been reported between sheep and dogs being walked towards Blacka. The surprise in that is that I could see no sheep and can't remember sheep having been in the fields along the lane. It is reported also that there has been at least one burglary. Does that really mean things must look like this for ever?


I'm desperately looking for some good news.

*** Sheffield's Public Rights of Way Unit has now confirmed that this is not a bridleway but a B.O.A.T. - a public byway open to all traffic. There is no requirement for dogs to be on lead.

Opacity

It's the opposite of transparency.
opacity was understood as the ally of corruption, transparency the enemy.
It might have been expected that today's edition of Sheffield Telegraph would have a response to the letter last week charging the RSPB with lack of transparency. No such response. Is that an admission of guilt?

The only letter coming even remotely close to this subject was from a senior Labour councillor telling us with practised pre-election puffery what a wonderful thing the local party has been for the countryside - working alongside the Ramblers.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

March Woods


One of the best months. Trees are just holding back allowing sunlight to penetrate to the floor where bracken is bronzed and frosted. Native birds are excited, their songs having no competition before the arrivals of visiting songbirds in coming weeks.


On a much smaller scale lichen and moss gardens are flourishing around bark crevices.


A good time to meet deer too. Stags are close to antler drop and have their favourite spots to spend long lethargic hours. Roe deer in contrast are lively enough to venture out into clearings.


Monday, 16 March 2015

Squirrels, Deer and Predators

Apparently the island of Anglesey is now free from grey squirrels after a lengthy programme of eradication. We are hearing that the result has been an increase in numbers of red squirrels up to a total of around 700, from 40 twenty years ago. Those who subscribe to the Times newspaper can read about this. Others will have to take my word for it that it is reported. One interesting sidelight on this is that some reds have started to cross the Menai Bridge onto the mainland. Presumably the UK Border Agency does not patrol there.

Does the grey squirrel cull on Anglesey have anything to tell us about the red deer cull here? The first thing to say is that red deer are comparable with the red squirrel rather than the unwanted grey and not just because of colour; both are native animals while the grey squirrel is an imported alien. The closest parallel with the greys would of course be the alien sheep and cattle that still colonise the moors. They are not being culled, or, as far as we know from the untransparent RSPB, even reduced in numbers. So once again those looking for consistency will be disappointed. An interesting comment in the article reveals that the wildlife trusts were not in favour of the grey squirrel cull because they don't agree with culls. So, being members of Sheffield Moors Partnership what's their position on the deer cull?

One lesson that might be learned comes from a study carried out in Ireland where red squirrels appear to have the edge over greys because of the presence of pine martens. Pine martens prey on squirrels but the evidence suggests they kill far more greys probably because greys spend more time on the ground. The trouble is pine martens have been more or less killed off in England and Wales.

So once again it looks as if the argument is gathering strength for re-introducing native predators previously wiped out. The lynx is surely preferable to the gun for controlling deer. Yet there is no evidence that the very conservative local conservation industry has even talked about it.

Maggots at Work

The woolly maggots are currently roaming on Houndkirk Moor in parts where they've not recently been seen, in an area close to a lot of new fencing. They will be ensuring that the vegetation remains stunted and no trees get a hold on that section of the moor.

Lots of sheep graze the enclosure on Blacka doing a job that's never been satisfactorily explained to me unless it's to encourage the small number of birds that prefer devastated land, though they've not shown much commitment to it yet.

On the rest of the local moors there are fewer sheep than in many previous years.

The astonishing thing about grazing and the moors is that draconian measures are taken to reduce deer numbers at such short notice whereas for many years there were hundreds of sheep wherever you looked with barely a word spoken against them (apart from on this blog perhaps). The scale of the negative impact of sheep was also immense, while deer in much smaller numbers  spread over a far wider area have many positive effects - eating bramble as just one example.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Deer Cull Objections.



It's worth trying to pull together our objections to the RSPB deer cull on the Eastern Moors. So here goes:

The instinctive reaction must be the most vital, especially from those of us who have frequently looked the deer in the eye from close by and watched the way they care for their young over many months, how they live outside at all hours and in the most severe winter conditions. In a really wild landscape they would be at risk from determined and hungry predators. That’s one thing but at least it’s a kind of birthright for them and a threat their behaviour has evolved to counter. In that lies their dignity.
To be despatched with high-tech firepower by someone who will be sipping a pint in a warm pub a couple of hours later is another thing entirely especially when the shooters tell you how humane they are being – that’s maybe after having their photos taken smiling alongside the carcasses.

Other detailed objections (will be added to)


1 This is a wildlife charity shooting wildlife. It doesn't look good and it risks playing into the hands of the enemies of conservation (Countryside Alliance, Ian Botham, grouse shooting industry hardliners etc.) and various critics. These have been particularly vocal in recent times and are always looking to find a stick to beat RSPB with. Their motives are often pretty grubby but some are taken in by the publicity they can fund. One or two of them may have a point. I can just hear them crying “double standards”, when the RSPB campaigns against persecution of birds of prey for example.

2 Following on from 1 above, those of us who want more protection for wildlife don't want to see ammunition put into the hands of those who claim to speak for 'the countryside' but are actually apologists for the hunting and shooting lobby.

3 Lack of transparency. It is seriously wrong to keep this quiet. It means there can be no public debate and no open discussion of alternatives. The countryside is public land and to say or imply that the public cannot be trusted to have a say in a contentious issue because it is 'sensitive' is to make the same mistake as others who keep us in the dark in South Yorkshire - don't mention the R word, but now it's Sheffield too.

4 A proper public discussion would enable a serious questioning of the strategy and underlying assumptions behind the land management of Sheffield Moors Partnership which was not allowed to happen during their tightly controlled 'consultation'.

5 When it comes to shooting wildlife, for a wildlife charity this should only even be considered after the situation has become critical and numerous other approaches have been publicly evaluated and shown to have failed.

6 We were told in 2013 that there were not enough deer on the Eastern Moors leading to use of cows. The following year the first letter (which we didn't see until last month) was written saying that  there were too many of them. Either we were being deceived or statements are based on dodgy evidence. In the case of either that means there should be more public scrutiny because we can't depend that management is giving us accurate information.

7 For several years now a combination of farmers and conservation industry organisations dedicated to managing and intervening in the landscape has been telling us that we must have farm animals grazing the land everywhere. The story  put about was that long ago deer and other wildlife used to graze and manage the land so that there would not be too much woodland. When we complained we didn't want cows and sheep everywhere we were told we did not understand. Conservation grazing was the thing. Our pleas for a farm animal free zone were ignored and we had to put up with cowpats all over paths and around gates, barbed wire fences and other unsightly boundaries. Now, shortly after deer arrived in numbers suddenly the story has changed and the deer have to be shot. The question has to be put: is this something to do with farm subsidies for farm animals?

8 We know that deer are not safe from other threats, poachers and some farmers and landowners who cannot be prosecuted for killing much wildlife on their land. Knowing that a significant wildlife charity is saying there are too many deer and many need to be shot may well embolden others who have their own reasons for using their guns.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Scrutiny


It's always best to hesitate before engaging with newspapers. It's in their nature to distort and mangle or dilute your message. The letter in today's Telegraph is a case in point. An office skivvy has been given the job of editing our letter and in the process has contrived to emasculate it. The heading they've chosen to put over it is just about acceptable: The decision to hand over moors to these charities needs to be scrutinised. But a telling and significant section was left out altogether.

That read:

In July 2013 the senior RSPB officer defended their grazing of cattle and sheep on the Eastern Moors because 'there are nowhere near enough deer on the moors'. This was at an important Action for Involvement conference on the moors attended by conservationists and environmentalists including Dr Mark Fisher and George Monbiot from the Guardian. Just over a year later a letter from RSPB was circulated privately to a select group of local 'stakeholders' telling them they intended to shoot 25% of the deer, while having no plans to reduce numbers of farm animals. The stakeholders are anonymous making it difficult to gain accurate information or make representations. A request to see the names of those stakeholders consulted and the minutes of their meetings has been declined.

Monday, 9 March 2015

War Declared?

Gunshots in the early morning coming from the direction of the Eastern Moors. It's Monday and for some workers I guess slaughter of the innocents is a 5-day week activity. Well let's be thankful the RSPB is not yet signed up to 24/7.

I've not yet received the copy of their Stakeholder Committee minutes I was promised some weeks ago. I was told that the names of participants would be redacted. Apart from an incredulous splutter, further comment will have to wait .................................

***

It's deeply frustrating that local people especially those engaged in single interest groups fail to understand the importance of transparency as a vital democratic essential. Some groups seem so flattered to be asked by managers to form part of a focus or stakeholder group that they  wallow in their new status and ignore the wider need for open public scrutiny.

Managers know this well. At early public engagement events for the Eastern Moors Partnership people were asked if they wanted to be involved with further consultative processes as 'stakeholders'. The managers then selected from respondents just those they were happy to engage with. This is profoundly undemocratic but they get away with it.

FoBM did put itself forward but its offer was rejected. When questions were asked  about who was appointed as a stakeholder the answer came back that this information was secret. The arrogance of this is astounding. Now the stakeholder meetings have presumably sanctioned the killing of wild deer on the moors but we're not allowed to know who these stakeholders are. Is Sheffield and the Peak District so out of touch with prevailing opinion across the rest of the country that the managers think they can get away with this?

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Connecting Lynx

There are those who just can't see how one thing links with another. They are unlikely to do well on BBC's Only Connect programme. I too struggle, especially when making the link relies on a detailed knowledge of popular culture.

Only Connect's title is a direct quote from E M Forster who claimed our ability and willingness to make connexions was  the measure of our humanity and continued 'we should live in fragments no longer'.

The link between deer culling by the RSPB on the Eastern Moors and the centuries old persecution of wild predators in this region should be kept alive in the minds of all who have responsibility for this land. And that beautiful animal the lynx should be the subject of our thinking. SWT wants to see the reintroduction of the lynx. Unfortunately that's not our Sheffield Wildlife Trust but the Scottish Wildlife Trust. Well you have to start somewhere.

http://www.wildlifearticles.co.uk/eurasian-lynx-reintroduction-in-the-uk/



And all may be starting sometime soon: wild lynx in an area would keep the deer alert and constantly moving, as they should be. Infinitely better than shooting and much better than all the planning and surveys and bureaucracy associated with 'management'.

http://www.lynxuk.org/

http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/uk_news/Environment/article1528585.ece

The second link is from today's Sunday Times, unfortunately behind a paywall but it begins thus:

WILD lynx, extinct in Britain for more than 1,300 years, could be released into forests in England and Scotland in the most ambitious “rewilding” scheme ever attempted in the UK.
If the scheme is approved, these big cats, which prey mainly on deer, will be released onto three privately owned but unfenced estates, in Norfolk, Cumbria and Aberdeenshire.
The Lynx UK Trust is today launching a public consultation to gauge public reaction to the plan, after which it will lodge a formal application with Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), the government agencies that oversee such releases.

The Eurasian Lynx is found in Europe so is not on the endangered species list worldwide. But the Iberian Lynx is. It's been suggested that we introduce the Iberian Lynx rather than reintroducing the Eurasian to this country to enable a population to develop. But very recent news suggests that the Iberian Lynx has been seen in parts of Spain for the first time in many years.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-news-from-elsewhere-31819357