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BASC has joined other rural groups in celebrating the most successful hen harrier breeding season in England for more than a decade.

Central to this success has been an unprecedented 21 chicks fledging from land managed for grouse shooting, which is more than 60 per cent of this year’s total young of 34.

The latest figures show nine nests in Lancashire, Cumbria, Co Durham, Northumbria and Derbyshire.

Last year, only three successful nests were recorded in England and they produced just 10 chicks.

BASC chairman Peter Glenser QC said: “The hard work and determination of all involved should be acknowledged, especially the gamekeepers and grouse moor managers who have provided the right environment for so many hen harriers to breed this year.

“Clearly, nobody dare say the battle is won; much still needs to be done to allow the hen harrier population to recover in England’s uplands. But news of the most successful breeding season for more than a decade should be celebrated as a very positive step in the right direction.”

Rural groups believe the key to this year’s success has been Natural England’s decision in January to issue a licence permitting a brood management scheme for hen harriers with the long-term aim of increasing their numbers across England.

Andrew Sells, chairman of Natural England, said: “The increase in hen harrier chicks this year is truly remarkable. These figures are a tribute to all those working hard for the survival of this breath-taking bird and show that responsible management of grouse moors must be part of the solution.

“Reviving the fortunes of the hen harrier has been a cause close to my heart and I very much hope that we are now on the right path. But it will take more than one good breeding season to bring about a thriving population so it’s important that there is no let-up in the efforts to conserve this magnificent bird.”

Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorland Association, said: “We are delighted that 34 harriers have fledged from the English uplands with a much improved range.

“Grouse moor managers and their gamekeepers are to be congratulated for their involvement in eight of the breeding attempts resulting in five successful nests on moorland managed for red grouse across Lancashire, Derbyshire and North Yorkshire.”

Andrew Gilruth, director of communications at the GWCT, said: “For decades, nest protection was never enough. Now we are seeing the success of working with landowners to resolve wildlife conflicts.”

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