10 August 2001
Estates ban RSPB in rare-bird dispute

By FWi staff

ROYAL Society for the Protection of Birds wardens have been banned from two large East Anglian estates in a dispute over the rare stone-curlew.

The ban follows angry exchanges between the RSPB and farmers over the societys role in the designation of a new Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI),

Straddling the Norfolk-Suffolk border, the Breckland Farmland SSSI covers more than 12,000ha (30,000 acres) of land, and imposes stringent controls on farming.

It includes large areas owned by the Elveden and Euston estates which, with more than 80 other land holdings, co-operated in a voluntary RSPB stone-curlew project.

Farmers and landowners identified and protected nests from agricultural machinery and predators, helping the endangered species to flourish.

As a result, numbers have doubled in the past 10 years and land now supports 172 pairs of stone-curlews, more than 40% of the national population.

But some farmers are upset after government wildlife adviser English Nature, with what they regard as minimum consultation, designated the land as an SSSI.

Some believe the designations are unnecessary and fear they could have an adverse affect on future land use and capital value.

And they are incensed because data they supplied to the RSPB were divulged to English Nature in the designation process without the farmers knowledge.

While only eight of 84 landowners and tenants covered by the SSSI have formally objected, they include Elveden and Euston, which own thousands of acres.

Jim Rudderham, Elveden Estate manager, said: “What is happening in this area is conservation politics, which has nothing to do with practical conservation.”

Christopher Spicer, Euston Estate manager, said RSPB wardens had been told they could not have access to the estate while it was in dispute with English Nature.

Rob Lucking, RSPB spokesman, said the society was saddened by the loss of co-operation of landowners.

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