The curbing of this fantasy – apparently born in America – has now been legally tested in Canada
Sarah Chang (Cornell) explains that extinction is a natural process but not at the rate at which it is happening. In North America, over 500 species have become extinct in less than 400 years. Scavenger animals depend on the carcasses left by gray wolves after they have finished eating. No more gray wolves means that scavengers will have a harder time finding food and their populations might begin to suffer. Predators keep small animal populations in check. If they were to become extinct, their prey populations would grow uncontrollably and might throw the ecosystem off balance.
However, the Digital Journal reported on September 1st this year that the US government has announced that protected gray wolves introduced into Wyoming from Canada – which have proliferated and attacked livestock – can now legally be shot on sight outside National Parks.
Re-creating some imagined past is a fallacy
In 2008, Magnus Linklater pointed out this “odd business, this drive to repopulate the country with predators” kites, sea eagles, beavers and possibly the wolf, “to re-create some imagined past” is a fallacy:
“Nature’s balance was thrown out of kilter long ago, perhaps when man started clearing the forests, driving out wolves and bears, perhaps when yeoman farmers enclosed land in the Middle Ages, used lime to enrich the soil, drained hills and fields, introduced sheep.
“Each had its effect on flora and fauna, sometimes to their detriment, sometimes to their advantage. The rise and fall of bird species such as waders, divers, larks, hedgesparrows and treecreepers have been affected by man’s intervention in the environment, and, although we can affect that at the margins, there is no turning back the clock.”
This form of conservation is in confusion
- Hill farmers, attempting to rear lambs at a time when they are on the verge of bankruptcy, will inevitably see these species as a threat to their farms.
- Bird-lovers, who watch small birds disappearing from their birdtables, sacrificed to the talons of sparrowhawks, are powerless to do anything in their defence.
- Landowners watch as grouse are destroyed.
- Promoters of wind farms, encouraged by one arm of government as a source of alternative energy, find their plans knocked back by another, which tells them that they threaten the future of eagles and kites. Foresters, attempting to preserve red squirrels, see goshawks picking them off as if there were no tomorrow.
- River-owners are aghast at the prospect of beavers undermining their banks, but are told that the animals will be introduced nonetheless.
One wealthy and therefore powerful organisation, the RSPB, was not mentioned in the first post, but its influence is all pervasive.
Linklater looks at the RSPB’s moorland estates record – as in turn, the RSPB accuses him of vested interest as a landowner:
“On two stretches of important moorland, Lake Vyrnwy in Wales and Geltsdale in Cumberland, the society has acquired what used to be grouse moors, and turned them over to conservation. Here, one might have thought, it should be able to demonstrate triumphantly that birds of prey and the birds they prey on can happily co-exist. In fact, results from these two moors are disappointing. Curlew, plover and other waders have all been in decline. A bar chart compiled by Natural England showing the statistics from 17 Sites of Special Interest in the North Pennines has Geltsdale hovering at the bottom, while managed grouse moors support healthy populations of wading birds. Lake Vyrnwy has around six pairs of hen harriers . . .”
Last year, the RSPB dismissed eyewitness accounts, the widely circulated photograph of an eagle carrying off a lamb – above – and the claims of 100 crofters in a petition sent to the Scottish Environment Secretary highlighting the damage caused by the sea eagles. Its response was that the majority of lamb deaths were due to other causes – probably true – but why deliberately add to these hazards?
Answering the question, “Where have all the songbirds gone?” posed in the first of this series by JP of mid-Wales
Linklater concludes The forced introduction of birds of prey in mainland areas where farming and other activities are being carried out has no obvious benefit beyond the frisson it gives to environmental agencies and passing tourists.
Last year, the chairman of the Countryside Restoration Trust, Robin Page, pointed out that much of our wildlife is disappearing just as the predators of garden birds, farmland birds and hedgehogs are increasing. These include human predators who are taking eggs and more than nine million domestic cats killing birds, and:
“The numbers of foxes, badgers, mink, grey squirrels, crows, magpies, ravens, buzzards, sparrowhawks and herons are on the up”.
Linklater’s verdict: collectively, predators – not farmers – are largely responsible for “wrecking the wildlife of Britain”.
No mention of problems due to reintroduced deer have been covered, but reading the lines and between the lines of Natural England’s online advice will inform those who wish to learn more. Ironically numbers have escalated and in Scotland this fact has been used to support a call to reintroduce the wolf and lynx in order to kill them.
PCU comment: will government ever realise the folly of relying on finance and tourism and redirect their energy and our money to build a solid, stable economy in which skilled people once more produce real wealth – food, energy and goods?