White-tailed Eagle (wte) Management in Scotland

Published: 2021-09-13 15:30:09
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Category: Zoology, Europe

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White-tailed eagle (WTE) management in Scotland has focused on the reintroduction of the once extinct population of this endangered species in the country and, after almost five decades, it has become quite successful due to the growing population. However, the problem between sheep farmers and WTEs has been an on-going issue since the first claim of lamb loss was reported to National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS) in 1995 on Mull. The conservation authorities have encountered local farmer’s backlash by that time. In 1997/1998, the initial management scheme was introduced on Mull by SNH as the ex-post type of compensation, which they would pay farmers for lamb loss that they thought was a result of them being taken by WTE. The scheme was modified as a pay-in-advance compensation since the early 2000; however, only those who manage land within five kilometers of an active WTE nest were eligible to apply for the management scheme (NFUS, 2014: 4). Hence, with the growing population of WTE, the sheep farmers had negative perception of the conservation authorities for their insufficient concern about the potential impact of WTE when the reintroductions were carried out.
Yet, there was no concrete evidence showing that the farmer-WTE conflict had reduced in past decades (Milner & Redpath, 2013). The human-human conflict resulting from increased populations of WTE in Scotland has drawn the attention of the conservation authorities in the last ten years. The WTE problems became more severe, so the farmers turn to NFUS for help. As a result, NFUS started to open a serious conversation with the conservation authorities, mainly SNH and RSPB. Finally, the joint-statement was launched by SNH and NFUS in 2014. Learning from the success of goose management in Scotland (Cope et al., 2003; Cope, Vickery, & Rowcliffe, 2005; MacMillan & Leader-Williams, 2008; Bainbridge, 2017), SNH gradually set up a comprehensive compensation scheme of the pay-in-advance type and embedded it into the latest WTE management scheme. On the top of that, a new WTE management scheme, revised from the previous one, was released in 2015 to seek further collaboration between conservation authorities and NFUS after a continuing conversation among different stakeholders.Compensation is widely used to mitigate human-wildlife conflict by building tolerance and balancing the economic losses experienced by communities living alongside endangered species (Schwerdtner & Gruber, 2007; Upadhyay, 2013). It is also expected to endorse positive attitudes and tolerance towards an endangered species which causes damage, as well as reducing human-wildlife conflict, and possibly making illegal killing less likely (Nyhus et al., 2005; Milheiras & Hodge, 2011). A common finding of previous studies (Vynne, 2009; Milheiras & Hodge, 2011; Franks & Emery, 2013; Marino et al., 2016) was that compensation could be effective when the policy was able to increase community participation and increase livestock owners’ involvement. By increasing the cooperation between different stakeholders, there is potential to decrease human-human conflict. In other words, compensation can be a mitigation strategy to reduce human-wildlife conflict from a social dimension. Consequently, it is important for policy makers to realize the importance of stakeholders’ involvement in the decision-making process. So far, most of the research focused on compensation has dealt with conflicts that arose from the reintroduction of endangered carnivores, and only a small amount of literature discusses raptors. As a result, investigating the WTE case can provide broader knowledge for the management of raptor conservation from a political perspective.
The current WTE management scheme (2015-2018) aims to investigate all issues involving sea eagle impacts on livestock, and trial prevention measures where required and practical (SNH, 2015). A panel was created to implement this management scheme, comprising representatives from SNH, NFUS, RSPB Scotland, Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS), Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate (SGRPID), and Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF) (SNH, 2015), with the panel administrated by SNH. The new WTE management scheme mainly offers three options for applicants: 1) they can apply for funding to carry out the measurement of their sheep management that can reduce the risk of predation, such as more shepherding or tick prevention; 2) they can propose any management plan which is likely to benefit WTE, or 3) special measurement to reduce WTE interaction with their livestock, such as fencing. Due to state aid rules, all the applicants need to be aware of double funding from the same agricultural authorities. However, there is considerable paperwork involved for the applicants and the proposals need to be discussed and agreed upon by the SNH office. How effective this management scheme will be in this situation is still in question. It also remains unknown whether SNH and NFUS will provide any consulting services to farmers who are willing to apply.
Above all, the crucial point in WTE management in Scotland is that the state regulator has switched the focus from reintroduction, as a conservation strategy, to community participation, as the communication with local society; as well as a shift from ex-post compensation to pay-in-advance compensation. More stakeholders are included in the decision-making process, thus resulting in a shift of institutional dynamics. As a result, it is important to consider different stakeholders who are involved in the WTE management scheme in Scotland; as well as to look at how different institutions influence the policy arrangement, in the way of the interaction between actors, discourses, rules, and resources. The incongruence of these four columns will let to the change of the policy arrangement.

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