, , , , , , , ,

A press of a button at the North York Moors National Park Centre lets you listen to this local ‘character’ who I have recorded here.


A statue of a gamekeeper giving a balanced view of grouse shooting? Like hell it is. This would be bad enough if it was from an actual grouse-shooting estate.

How on earth can this be the official view of a National Park? Just what is involved in ‘looking after the moors’?  I think we know – just look at the appalling record of raptor persecution in North Yorkshire. [1]

What we have here seems to be blatant propaganda justifying criminal activity and I can’t believe that the National Park in which I live has this as its official line.

Below is a letter I’ve just sent to them.

To the North York Moors National Park Authority,

As a resident of the North York Moors National Park I am writing to you regarding the practice of grouse shooting within the park boundaries.  With North Yorkshire having been named as England’s worst county for the persecution of birds of prey why is it that our National Park supports an activity that has been repeatedly linked to wildlife crime?  Why can’t people enjoy the sight of a Hen Harrier or a Short-eared Owl flying across open countryside on their weekend walks? Where are the Peregrine Falcons, Ravens and Buzzards?

In addition to the illegal killing of raptors there are several other issues linked to the forms of land management associated with, in particular, driven grouse shooting. For example, how exactly does heather burning improve the landscape of our National Parks?  A recent study by Leeds University states ‘The owners of grouse moors who set fire to heather to promote green shoots for young birds to eat are polluting rivers and contributing to climate change‘. In addition, the resulting patchwork looks awful.

This study further suggests that water from catchments dominated by grouse moors leads to increased water bills for many customers (since the costs of water cleaning are met by the customer not the polluter) and perhaps a greater risk of flooding.

So why is this allowed to happen within the National Park? And please, just to save you the time and effort, don’t invoke the need for grouse shooting to maintain heather moorland or the need for heather moorland to maintain grouse– was there really none of either before 1800?

The Cairngorms National Park is now beginning to address the issue of driven grouse shooting. It states, ‘While this single issue land management has achieved year-on-year record-breaking grouse numbers for sporting purposes, we consider that this activity comes at significant environmental cost’. In words that can equally be applied to The North York Moors National Park, it adds that illegal persecution of birds of prey to protect grouse has a ‘very damaging effect’ on conservation and public understanding, adding: ‘There is an unfortunate record of illegal raptor persecution in and around the national park, which risks undermining the park’s reputation as a well-managed place for nature and wildlife tourism’.

Will the North York Moors National Park reconsider the status of driven grouse shooting within its boundaries? Will you speak out more forcefully against wildlife crimes being committed in the region on and around grouse moors? Will the ‘gamekeeper’ at the Moors Centre be rerecorded to be less of a propaganda machine? Do you have any powers to influence or alter existing practice in this industry when it takes place within the boundaries of the National Park? I would like to hear your views and to learn more about what powers the Park authorities have to monitor and affect what happens in the National Park related to this issue.

Yours in anticipation,

Steve Mills