Project demonstrates success with raptors

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The Langholm Moor Demonstration Project, one of the most important projects in the British uplands, has published its seven-year review which outlines what progress this unique 10-year project has made to date against its key targets.

The number of nesting hen harriers exceeded the project target for 2014, thereby helping to deliver the objectives of the Langholm and Newcastleton Hills Special Protection Area, notified under the EU birds directive.

The moor also supports healthy populations of raptors and short-eared owls, while black grouse numbers have also increased significantly.

However, red grouse numbers have not yet recovered sufficiently to allow driven shooting and this has compromised the desired compatibility between red grouse and raptors.

One of the main objectives of the project is to improve grouse production so that grouse shooting again becomes viable enough in economic terms to support moorland management.

The project is charged with demonstrating how to resolve conflicts between moorland management for raptors and red grouse, maintaining the hen harrier population as a viable component of the Special Protection Area, increasing the populations of moorland breeding wading birds and songbirds, and extending and improving the heather moorland habitat beyond its state in 2002.

Other salient points from the review are:

z The targets of expanding the area of heather and improving heather condition have both been met

z The population targets have not been met for wading birds, despite some population increases, but have been met for meadow pipits

z Stakeholder engagement has led to a better understanding of moorland management which integrates a viable game shooting enterprise with raptor management, and of practicable and acceptable options to resolving current management concerns

z There is a strong partnership between game management and raptor conservation interests

The moor covers almost 12,000ha of land owned by Buccleuch Estates to the north east of Langholm and the project is a joint initiative between Buccleuch Estates, Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, Scottish Natural Heritage, the RSPB and Natural England.

Speaking about the review, Mark Oddy, Chairman of the project’s Board said: “We are delighted to produce our most substantive report on the project yet.

“The review shows that the project has met its targets for habitat improvement and for the SPA target for hen harriers, which is good news.

“However, as yet, red grouse populations have not recovered sufficiently to allow any grouse shooting.

“This means that we have not yet achieved the desired compatibility between the economic driver of red grouse shooting and raptor conservation.”

The report of the Seven Year Review of the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project is now available on the Project’s website http://www.langholmproject.com/Project%20administration.html.