Following ten years of hard work by conservationists and landowners, The Game Conservancy Trust is delighted to announce that the North Pennines Black Grouse Recovery Project has managed to stem the decline of the spectacular black grouse in northern England.
This is an exceptional achievement and the project’s success is further enhanced by securing substantial funding for another five years. This is an exciting development and means that the project can progress to the next important phase, which is to extend the range of this very threatened Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) species.
The North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership is joining the existing recovery project partners, RSPB, Northumbrian Water, Ministry of Defence and English Nature (through its Countdown 2010 Biodiversity Action Fund) as one of the new funding partners. This is an important step as the North Pennines AONB is critically important for the conservation of black grouse in northern England, particularly as 80% of the remaining population are found here. Black grouse thrive on moorland managed for red grouse shooting, as they require a mosaic of habitat types including heather moorland, rough grazing allotments, woodland edge habitats and hay meadows.
Phil Warren, North Pennines Black Grouse Recovery Project officer said, “The Black Grouse Recovery Project has been particularly successful in stabilising the population in the North Pennines through positive management by landowners, farmers and gamekeepers. The aim now is to establish black grouse into areas where they were once numerous. This is a long-term process and the aim is to encourage them to recolonise areas along the Pennine Chain by creating connected areas of suitable habitats.”
Black grouse are a UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) species, with The Game Conservancy Trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) appointed joint lead partners for the plan. The Black Grouse Recovery Project is a partnership between The Game Conservancy Trust, Ministry of Defence, RSPB, English Nature through Countdown 2010 Biodiversity Action Funding and Northumbrian Water, North Pennines AONB Partnership and has been running since 1996.
David Baines from The Game Conservancy Trust, a lead partner in the UK Species Action Plan, said, “We warmly welcome this ambitious third phase of the recovery plan for northern England. The results to-date clearly illustrate that sustainable management of grouse moors in conjunction with sympathetic hill farming using agri-environment schemes can make a key difference, not only to black grouse, but also to other ground nesting birds. We hope this fine excellent example of a conservation partnership can be effectively rolled out in other parts of the UK, particularly Scotland, where black grouse continue to decline.”
Chris Woodley-Stewart from the North Pennines AONB Partnership said, "Black Grouse are an iconic species for the North Pennines and one that we really want to see prosper, not least because of their value as proxy indicators of a high quality and diverse natural environment in the AONB. They are also important for the economy for the attraction they have for visitors to the area alongside our other spectacular birdlife, our rare flora and our wonderful wild landscapes."
John Barrett from English Nature said “Black grouse, as a key national biodiversity target, act as an indicator of sustainable land management. Their precarious position nationally means that there is still a long way to go nationally before their population decline is arrested. English Nature’s continuing support for the North Pennines Recovery Project is a reflection both on the success of the previous ten years but also on the need to find innovative new ways of securing enhancement to populations. We hope that the project over the next five years will provide further examples of best practice that can be used more widely over the black grouse’s range to enhance its conservation status”
There has been a massive national decline of black grouse. In the mid 19th century they were widespread across the country and could be seen in southern England, from Norfolk through Hampshire and Dorset to Cornwall, but the population in Britain is now restricted to northern England, Scotland, and North Wales.
An information guide, ‘Conserving the black grouse’ is available free from The Game Conservancy Trust, Fordingbridge, Hampshire. SP6 1EF. Website: www.gct.org.uk Telephone: 01425 652381
For further information on this project or for free advice on managing land for black grouse please contact: Phil Warren, Black Grouse Recovery Project Officer, The Game Conservancy Trust, Telephone: 01833 622208.
Notes to editors
The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust is an independent wildlife conservation charity which carries out scientific research into Britain’s game and wildlife. We advise farmers and landowners on improving wildlife habitats and we lobby for agricultural and conservation policies based on science. We employ 14 post-doctoral scientists and 50 other research staff with expertise in areas such as birds, insects, mammals, farming and statistics. We undertake our own research as well as projects funded by contract and grant-aid from Government and private bodies. The Trust is also responsible for a number of Government Biodiversity Action Plan species and is lead partner for grey partridge and joint lead partner for brown hare and black grouse.
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