...............heard at a meeting of conservation officers?
Free now - soon to be managed*.
They seem shocked when you challenge them. They've just said "It must be managed" and you say "Why?" It's commonplace. Those who benefit from land being managed are of course managers themselves of one kind or another. So that is what they will say.
In fact it has a certain inevitability about it. Once the management bug is caught they don't know how to stop. They probably can't.
The process (along with the published justifications) becomes inexorable, propelled by the growth of the organisations behind them.
So managing the vegetation becomes by extension, also managing the wildlife. There's no real argument about this. They talk about managing habitats and controlling vegetation. They encourage everyone in the land management sector to proclaim at every opportunity that our countryside has to be managed. And that inevitably means the wildlife. It starts on the ground with trees and shrubs, grasses (and tussocks!!) and 'invasive species'. Though you may notice that nobody mentions the most invasive species of all, mankind and its fastest growing representatives the managers themselves. If ever a case could be made.
They already have systems put in place to manage certain animals judged by landowning interests to be undesirable. The methodology becomes cultural. Not just foxes but corvines and mustelids are regularly targeted as not wanted and therefore fair game for the trigger happy. Now the badger is well on his way to being managed. Let's have just 20% of them and kill the other 80% seems to be the call. Someone at a desk must be the one to make the decision.
Deer are next on the list, whipped up by an ignorant muttering campaign from farmers and others for whom the word deer always invokes the word cull. But the management tendency hardly needs backing. Cattle and sheep can devastate the vegetation in a place but nobody talks of culling them. They are already in the managers' command and control toolkit.
A huge part of the pleasure gained from seeing deer on Blacka Moor comes from knowing that they are free, not managed in response to anybody's plans and self interest. That is now set to change if the Sheffield Moors Partnership's Master Plan gets the approval that the partners obviously expect. They intend to manage all the moors by "extensive grazing". They say that "appropriate livestock and the resident red deer herd " will be used and that this grazing will be "the primary land management tool on the Sheffield Moors." That is a horror story. Wild and free animals are to become a management tool. And the managers will take the credit and assume responsibility for managing them. They may stop short of ear tagging them and dipping them but I would not be so sure.
If this happens that will be the beginning of the end of the attraction of Blacka Moor for some of us. We have already seen the insistence on meddling with the landscape by tree fellings and poisonings, managers asserting their own will on the natural land by spraying and coppicing so that soon we will not be able to say that parts of Blacka are free from their casual and indiscriminate interventions.
They will also be developing "an overall deer management policy for the Sheffield Moors and adopt by 2015".
Let us be clear what this means. These managers are completely under the thumb of the farming industry which will simply not put up with large animals roaming uncontrolled. We know their attitude to badgers. At a meeting two years ago about the Eastern Moors they spoke one after the other in favour of a cull of deer, exaggerating the numbers shamelessly. Some of these people believe it is their birthright to shoot any wild animals and some of them will never be fully satisfied until nothing is left but their own miserable looking livestock. So an overall deer management policy can only mean shooting the deer.
If we do not fight this now while we have the opportunity we will have ourselves to blame. Part of the magic and vital life will be gone from our most special places.
* managed = culled.
culled = killed