Natural England responds to new Chair claims
Several newspapers, including today’s Telegraph and Mail, have today inaccurately reported that the new Natural England Chair was responsible for the decision to review general licences for controlling birds.
Writing in a letter to the papers’ editors, Lord Blencathra, Natural England’s Deputy Chair, said the claims - including the suggestion that Tony Juniper was in any way associated with the legal challenge by Wild Justice - were ‘categorically wrong’.
“The decisions to review the licences, subsequent legal action and the corresponding decision to revoke the three general licences pre-date the start of Tony Juniper’s tenure and I was acting Chair.
“As Defra has made very clear, Tony’s appointment was made on merit, following an EFRA and EAC committees’ joint report into his suitability for the job.
“Given the legal challenge to the general licences came after the EFRA hearing, it is ridiculous to criticise him for not declaring it - as is the suggestion Tony is a self-declared eco warrior, wants a blanket halt on the use of all fertilizers and pesticides and is in cahoots with all the contacts he has made over 30 years of active public service.
“I regret needing to take time to respond to this absurd story. My priority now, along with all in Natural England, is to put back legally robust ways to allow landowners to continue to control wild birds where necessary. This is not a ban on control but a change to the licensing system – and the first steps are in place.”
Oak Processionary Moth
While the Oak Processionary Moth caterpillar– a pest native to southern Europe – was found in the UK in 2005, we have had no confirmed sightings in the UK this year. The reported sightings are likely to be the caterpillars of the native Brown Tail Moth which appear at this time of year. The hairs of these larvae can provoke an allergic reaction, so contact with them or their nests should be avoided.
A map on Forestry Commission’s website shows the area the pest is present, alongside detail on distinguishing OPM from other moths, and we encourage members of the public to report any sightings via the TreeAlert reporting tool or by phoning 0300 067 4442.
A Forestry Commission spokesperson said:
“We are working with local authorities and land managers to share best practice and to deliver a control programme of surveillance and treatment to tackle Oak Processionary Moth.
“The majority of the UK is a designated Protected Zone for this pest and we have recently strengthened import controls on oak trees to mitigate against further risks.”