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SNH accused of double standards over wind farms  

Credit:  Northern Times 15th July 2011 ~~

A Loth man has accused Scottish Natural Heritage of “double standards” when assessing wind farm impact on birds.

Peter Davies, in a letter to the Northern Times this week (see Page ll), says: “In a recent article on the illegal poisoning of birds of prey, SNH area manager Lesley Cranna appears to be more concerned for the “designated site of European importance for hen harriers (on the Skibo Estate)’ than the protection of the actual birds.” And he continues: “During the planning process for the Gordonbush wind farm the local area of office of SNH was more concerned about where the boundary of another designated site was, rather than where the actual species it was meant to protect were nesting. Now Lesley Cranna has reinforced this approach.

“An SNH report places an economic value of nature-based tourism to Scotland, yet in practice it fails to adequately protect the very species without which there would be no value.

“There is more than a suspicion of double standards being used by SNH when it, rightly, condemns poisoning birds of prey, yet fails to protect the same species from wind farms.” In reply, Ms Cranna told the Northern Times that she accepted there will be bird casualties from wind farms “but our aim is to ensure that losses are at a level where the regional population of the species can be sustained.

“There may also be gains for some species from habitat improvement works developers have carried out.” She said: “I very much welcome Peter Daniels’ interest in our work and he is quite right to say that we focus on wildlife and landscape issues of national interest. Our policy on this is available on the SNH website .

There is however a significant difference between the risks of birds colliding with wind turbines and the deliberate illegal poisoning of protected species.

“We condemn all illegal persecution of species, whether or not the area itself is protected.

“We support renewable energy as one way to tackle the threat to nature from climate change. This needs to go hand in hand with reducing our energy consumption. We also want the needs of development to be balanced with those of nature, our greatest economic asset. We pursue this aim by advising developers and those who make the decisions, such as local authorities or the Scottish Government.

“We also advise on natural heritage impacts in the rest of the countryside, usually at a strategic level.

Occasionally, we advise against developments outwith designated sites if we believe the impacts would be of national significance. We have just taken part in the Spittal public inquiry for this reason.” And she continued: “On cumulative impacts, at the national level we have recently formed the Scottish Wind Farm Bird Steering Group in partnership with the Scottish Government, RSPB and the renewables industry .

The group will review the findings of the bird monitoring studies on operational wind farms across the country and identify key issues .

“We rely on others to express their views on what they believe to be valuable and worth protecting, as part of the democratic process, to those who make the decisions. This may be about nationally important landscapes or threats to their local wildlife – so thank you, Peter, for doing just that.”

Double standards being used by SNH? [letter]

SIR – In an article on the illegal poisoning of birds of prey (NT June 3), Lesley Cranna, area manager for Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) appears to be more concerned for the “designated site of European importance for hen harriers (on the Skibo Estate)” than the protection of the actual birds.

The article also quoted an SNH report issued in 2010 assessing the economic value of nature-based tourism in Scotland.

On the page of the Scottish Natural Heritage website dealing with Wildlife Crime, is the simple statement “Scottish Natural Heritage is committed to protecting our nature and landscapes and combating wildlife crime”.

Is this really put into practice in a local context’? During the planning process for the Gordonbush windfarm, the local area of office of SNH was more concerned about where the boundary of another designated site was, rather than where the actual species it was meant to protect were nesting. Now Lesley Cranna has reinforced this approach.

The recent BBC Scotland report on the loss of birds of prey to poison on Scotland’s sporting estates lacked the courage to also tackle the number of birds lost to collisions with the growing number of wind turbines.

Both SNH and the RSPB are silent on the loss of birds through either loss of habitat to windfarms or collision with the turbines.

The RSPB is concerned with the potential impact certain windfarms might have on the local habitat of protected species. Both organisations remain unable to express any concern about the wider potential cumulative impact of windfarms on the habitat and welfare of the[se] species.

The SNH report places an economic value of nature-based tourism to Scotland, yet in practice it fails to adequately protect the very species without which there would be no value. There is more than a suspicion of double standards being used by SNH when it, rightly, condemns poisoning birds of prey yet fails to protect the same species from windfarms.

The argument also applies to failure by SNH to protect landscape-based tourism in Scotland –
Peter Davies, The Old Manse, Loth, Helmsdale.

Source:  Northern Times 15th July 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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