Written by Henrietta Appleton, Policy Officer
2 Minute Read
The recent debate on driven grouse shooting (relating to the Wild Justice e-petition on 21st June) revealed two very different attitudes to management. On the one hand, those opposed to the banning of grouse shooting regarded the management of grouse moors as a constructive action supporting biodiversity and other public goods and services; on the other hand, those supporting its banning saw the management as artificial and destructive. So who is right?
As is often the case, the answer is not black and white as it is about “balance”. It is no coincidence that two GWCT publications by our former Director of Policy, Dr Steve Tapper, were called “A Question of Balance” and “Restoring the Balance”.
Ecosystem and wildlife recovery is increasingly being promoted as an approach in which man is not part of nature but is separate from it; for example, rewilding encourages the restoration of our natural ecosystem processes through minimal intervention. Antoine Dussault wrote an interesting paper[i] in which he concluded that the concept of ecological naturalness was better suited than the wilderness concept to enabling humans to inhabit the earth's ecosystems in ecologically sustainable ways, as it embraces human agency as part of the nature we see around us.
Given that almost the entirety of our island nation has been managed at some point in its history, our landscapes are no longer ‘natural’ and ‘wildernesses’ but reflect the interaction between man and nature, sometimes over millennia. It is only in the more recent decades where intensive management in response to, for example, the demand for affordable food to feed a growing global population, has led to “management” being regarded as creating negative externalities such as species declines, pollution and carbon emissions.
Humans have been integrated into our natural ecosystems for so long that just stepping back through rewilding is simply not an option – in this country at least. Our land is finite and the pressures on it to deliver the multitude of economic, cultural, regulatory and supporting public goods and services are constant and real. This will involve trade-offs and the only way these can be ‘balanced’ is through management. Such as grouse moor management where the controlled burning of heather, blanket bog restoration and predator management supports not only economic goods and services (as the debate widely discussed) but also net-zero policy ambitions (through peatland restoration and wildfire mitigation), nature recovery (through supporting red-listed species) and cultural landscapes usually in designated National Parks or AONBs (thereby ironically reinforcing the value of historic management).
As Dussault ended “…it is only if we stop seeing ourselves and our cultural products as hopelessly alien and injurious to nature that we can start reflecting on the kind of cultural shift that could help us live better in ... the ecological world”. Amen.
[i] Antoine C. Dussault Ecological Nature: A Non-Dualistic Concept for Rethinking Humankind's Place in the World Ethics and the Environment Vol. 21, No. 1 (Spring 2016),