Ravens tumble over hills as I travel north for a novel workshop and south to Parliamentary meetings on biodiversity.
The corvid family are well known opportunists. Optimistic even. Like the vision behind the ‘Understanding Predation’ workshops set up by Scotland’s Moorland Forum (29 organisations including RSPB, Scottish Wildlife) to ‘build a shared evidence base that critically assesses information from science and local knowledge to highlight and analyse the reasons for the differences’ in how we address issues around the impact of predatory birds on waders et al*.
In other words, ‘leave a gamekeeper and a conservation scientist in a remote bothy to find common ground’.
The key to this novel approach was the framing of discussions based on outcomes from earlier research* around waders, grey partridges, buzzards and hooded crows. As issues are controversial, we were to respect each other at all times with no grinding of axes (if possible). Seeing and listening to gnarly keepers and righteous raptorphiles genuinely listening to each other’s input, while experienced conservation scientists set the ‘right’ questions to capture all the different perspectives, was truly refreshing.
There was a different atmosphere in the Houses of Parliament – restrained yet ambitiously knowledgeable – as I snuck into an All-Parliamentary Party GWCT Group exploring ‘tools to create success at reversing declines in biodiversity’. The Duke of Norfolk’s success at increasing wild grey partridge numbers may not have dwelt on the affordability of the number of gamekeepers required to control crows, but did share a raft of useful ideas to help farmers deliver more wildlife. A GWCT ecologist went into detail on the use of new generation welfare-approved fox snares which, albeit release non-target species, may have stuck in the throats of some at the All-Parliamentary Group on Biodiversity convening the same afternoon.
As both APPG’s are working towards the same goal, the opportunity was too obvious for this opportunist – even if Stanley Johnson (instigator of the Habitats Directives) ‘crowed’ a tad too long on his admirable triumphs – to ask a question on not dividing people by demanding ‘who’s side are you on?’
All these gatherings have value. Whether as campaigns to raise public awareness, or the dissemination of knowledge, but for me, the workshop was a brilliant foray into how positive conservation outcomes for biodiversity from partridges to pine martens might be reached today.