A judicial review into Natural England's controversial 'brood management' plan, which involves issuing licences for Hen Harriers to be taken from their broods, raised in captivity and then released back into the wild at specific locations, has failed.
The review, which was brought about by leading conservationist and Birdwatch columnist Dr Mark Avery, along with the RSPB, took place on 15 March, with Mrs Justice Laing ruling Natural England's plans to be lawful on the grounds that the licenses were being issues for research purposes, and not yet for conservation purposes, thus they could go ahead.
Brood management involves removing Hen Harrier broods from driven grouse moors once breeding numbers have reached a certain level, due to concerns that they have a significant impact on the number of Red Grouse available for shooting. However, the RSPB believes the first step in Hen Harrier recovery should be the cessation of illegal persecution, which is widely acknowledged as the main reason driving the decline of the iconic bird of prey.
Dr Avery commented on his blog: "It's disappointing to lose but I'd like to thank all my supporters and my legal team for mounting this challenge and the RSPB for taking their challenge alongside mine. It needed to be done, it certainly wasn't frivolous (otherwise we would not have been given permission to proceed with the judicial review) and it may not be over yet."
Martin Harper of the RSPB added: "This is obviously a huge blow but we will continue to fight for the future of Hen Harriers. The plight of this threatened species is a stark reminder of so much that is wrong with the way we manage our uplands. It is only through standing up for what is right that we can help recover the wildlife that we all cherish."