October 2014: Hen harriers: The facts, the plan, a solution?

Hen harriers: The facts, the plan, a solution?There are a number of conflicts today across the upland landscape, whether it be overgrazing carbon-rich soils by sheep, the construction of wind farms, or the conflicts of rotational heather burning. The uplands are a complex place with a unique socio-economic and environmental balance. To pick one upland conflict for our debate may seem to ignore the wider issues on moorland habitat. The recent quantity of articles in the press and social media regarding hen harrier conservation and how this conflicts with red grouse shooting is at present an important issue.

Harriers this year are reportedly down to four breeding pairs in England, compared to around 500 breeding pairs in Scotland. There have been a number of petitions to Defra in recent months about saving hen harriers, banning driven grouse shooting or publishing draft conservation plans, gaining 28,500 signatures combined (and still counting!).

At our next meeting we will hear from a range of scientific experts on the ecology of the hen harrier, the impacts of grouse moor management and how we could go forward in returning hen harriers to the uplands whilst maintaining the valuable contribution that best practice sporting management can make to both our rural economy and our environment.


  • Prof Des Thompson, Principal Adviser on Biodiversity, Scottish Natural Heritage
  • Dr David Baines, Head of Upland Research, GWCT
  • Teresa Dent, Chief Executive, GWCT