Easily the spectacular sight of choice for visitors to Blacka Moor and the adjoining Eastern Peak District Moors is a close up view of our largest native wild animal, the Red Deer. You would think then that this meant a lot for Sheffield Wildlife Trust and their conservation friends. But it’s not that simple. They have a take it or leave it attitude to this inspiring and heart-warming scene. In fact the record of the people who manage these moors has been quite the opposite of welcoming. Over the years which species of wildlife have they most targeted as undesirable would you think? Well it’s not the alien and invasive Himalayan Balsam that spreads on the north side of Blacka. I’ve seen no sign that they have tried to eliminate that assuming they know where it is. Along with bracken and birch and rhododendron, most resources have been devoted to killing the very Red Deer that the public love. In 2004 a party of these conservation people including those presently employed to manage the Eastern Moors shot a group of stags. This was despite the fact that the deer were no possible threat to the public nor to their dogmatic concept of desirable vegetation and were not increasing so significantly in number to cause serious concern.
The present view of the same people is that they will not be shooting any more as things stand*. How very tolerant of them. They may even have come to an understanding that the deer were living in this area hundreds of years ago so their claim to be left alone might be respected. But it’s a very grudging respect. Their claim now to be utilising the deer as part of their farming approach to stopping the regeneration of woodland is more of a defensive measure anticipating the potential for public outcry if they are culled. And we know their indignation at any poaching incidents is more an instinctive “gerroff my land” reaction than serious concern for the welfare of wild animals.
I wrote about this last year and the post attracted more interest than any other on this blog including a boring response from Nigel Doar denying the conclusions that I drew. But it was too late. We had been able to observe their attitude enough by then.
There was a time before the Red Deer returned to the region and showed their liking for Blacka Moor. Less than ten years ago nobody was anticipating it. Looking back now it is all clear. SWT’s whole approach is about being in control and there was no place in their top-down, prescriptive plans for free-spirited anarchic creatures like deer. The problem for them was that the deer represent the most impressive wildlife sight not just on Blacka but in the whole Eastern Moors area. This was a challenge they had not expected.
The deer were just what Sheffield Wildlife Trust's approach did not need. They represented a direct and incisive challenge to the assumptions behind SWT’s approach. Even now some people do not get this. But Nigel did to his credit and eventually so did others in the conservation mafia. Their landscape management approach was based on the assumption that the natural succession happening on the old grouse moor heath was unfortunate and regrettable. They planned to gradually reverse this process prioritising the heath as it was before nature set about reclaiming it. But it was that natural succession that made the place attractive to deer who blend in among the trees and lie up during the day amid the bracken stands leggy heather and deep bilberry shrubs. And who is to say what other wild animals would not return if the natural process of vegetation reclaiming the land from the tyranny of monoculture management was allowed to proceed? The fact that wildlife trusts cannot answer this question exposes their hollow claim to any authority here. To them it does not really matter much.
The problem is that of the Biodiversity Scam that pervades the thinking and commentary of all the conservation movement and drives out any other perspective like bad money driving out good.
Frankly the biodiversity agenda as interpreted by Sheffield Wildlife Trust, in common with the other local conservation bureaucracies has been used as a contrivance to put themselves in control of the processes that determine the fate of our landscape. It has been a godsend to them. As a business investment it would be seen as a sure bet. They will always be able to claim that one species or another is in critical decline. Managers will be needed to monitor its progress, those managers will need grants, office space, capital for work stations, report production, maps and surveys, mortgages for head office, fleets of vehicles, power tools, websites, various infrastructure needs, grants from suitable sources for managing volunteer programmes and investment to raise further funds needed to apply for grants to raise even more funds, and many more. This is not kidding – all are evidence based observations drawn from watching Sheffield Wildlife Trust. Presence on the ground, for them, is very low priority. And biodiversity is a word that nobody questions. It is so self-evidently a good thing that it's believed you can use it to win any argument.
How many assaults on natural beauty and wildife are justified by playing the biodiversity card? They don't need to go into details. Just intone the word.
* In 2015 the RSPB shot 63. Since then how many? They're keeping quiet. But they are shooting foxes, I believe.