Cuts Watch #61: Sea Eagles
Natural England (the Government’s agency that looks after National Nature Reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest) was the lead organisation for the project, and the agency’s press release is clear that it “would have met all the international criteria and would have been successful.”
The Agency gives, as its reason for ending the project, “the need for crucial savings in public funding that must be made in the current climate of financial restraint, and the need to concentrate on existing commitments to biodiversity conservation.” The Independent reports, however, that the government may have used deficit cutting as an excuse – farming interests have protested that the re-introduction project could threaten livestock. The article notes that James Paice, the Agriculture Minister, is an East Anglian farmer.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the other main partner in the project, has pointed out that a similar project, on the west coast of Scotland, delivered a substantial boost to local tourism. The Sea Eagle is the fourth largest bird of prey in the UK and lives for over 20 years on average; despite re-introduction in Scotland in the 1970s there are still just 40 pairs in this country.