Renewable/Other Energy

Scottish gamekeepers want ‘greater transparency’ over wind farm impact on wildlife

A golden eagle

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) has called for monitoring and reporting around wind farm impact on local wildlife to be tightened up.

In a statement, the group pointed to a recent report implicating local grouse gamekeepers in the loss of 41 out of 131 tagged eagles over the last 12 years.

There is a concern within the organisation that lack of monitoring and reporting has led to a ‘blame culture’ and innocent gamekeepers being implicated when raptors disappear.

The 5300 strong SGA expressed their disappointment at the current monitoring and reporting practices currently in place, saying they must be tightened up as wind farms continue to spring up around Scotland.

The call also comes hot on the heels of a study from the University of Cambridge, BTO, RSPB, Birdlife International, IUCN, University College London, Imperial College London, University of Stellenbosch and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee which found eagles to be particularly at risk from wind turbines.

The study found sea eagles and golden eagles to be at the ‘highest risk’ concerning wind turbine mortality.

Gamekeepers claim they have also brought this concern to the attention of authorities.

Alex Hogg, SGA chairman, said: “A code for on-going monitoring of windfarms, for wildlife impacts would be helpful. Checks exist but are inconsistent and organised by operators themselves, often using maintenance crew. There is no statutory duty to report bird collisions in Scotland.

“We said at the time we were not convinced by the wind farm element of the satellite tagged eagle report but we didn’t want to detract from our condemnation of illegal behaviour.

“We have, ourselves, expelled 6 members in 5 years for wildlife crime convictions.

“However, we disagreed, and still do, with the report’s assumption there would be little motive for wind companies not to report downed birds. Our members have witnessed dead raptors under turbines and up to 200 yards from turbine masts- way beyond the 50m radius operators are recommended to search and report. Most have felt duty bound not to speak because turbines march onto land they manage.

“The report also said turbines could not be seen as a major cause of missing eagles because no final tag signals were within 1km of a turbine. But we know signals only register a limited number of times per day.

“By speaking out there will be people all too ready to damn us but, as a representative body, we see it as our duty to defend our members’ right not to be assumed as guilty until proven innocent for the disappearance of every bird that flies over a moor in Scotland, when other factors may or may not be at play. By agreeing codes for monitoring, there would be greater transparency.”

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