Bats and Pine Martens

ELF has obtained a commitment from the Forestry Commission to put a pause on the second release of Pine Martens in Wye Valley and Forest of Dean Bats SPA onto its land. That is until such time as a proper assessment of the impacts on protected bats has been undertaken, especially Greater and Lesser Horseshoe Bats.

Greater Horse Shoe Bat – by kind permission of David Priddis ©

Recent media reports on the success of the Pine Marten introduction in the Forest of Dean and the Wye Valley Bats Special Protection Area have been widely circulated. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jul/13/first-signs-of-success-in-bid-to-reintroduce-pine-martens-to-england Whilst ELF is a great supporter of conservation efforts to rebalance nature, we have had concerns over this reported matter. ELF has been working with a local bat expert since the beginning of 2020, regarding his significant concerns about the release of Pine Martens in this area and the direct impacts on protected bat species. We have been working to stop a second release anticipated this autumn, until there has been a proper assessment of the impact on the protected bats species undertaken.

Stephen Davison approached ELF at the beginning of the year, regarding the impacts on Greater Horseshoe and Lesser Horseshoe Bats, European Protected Species and qualifying feature species for the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean Bats SPA and the lack of an Appropriate Assessment as required under Regulation 6(3) of the Habitats Regulations. Pine Martens are known to predate on bats and two reports commissioned (shadow Habitats Assessments) both concluded that “significant effects” on protected species could not be ruled out. Yet no appropriate assessment was carried out. One report stated:-

One shadow report stated:-

Given their location and the nature of the buildings, mines and caves they are found in, the most important SAC bat populations could be at risk from pine marten predation and/or disturbance, due to the vulnerability of many of the roosts to entry by pine martens. The severity of impacts is very difficult to quantify but, for instance, without mitigation, a chance event of surplus killing at …………in winter could have severe and potentially irreversible impacts on the status of greater horseshoe bats as a qualifying feature of the SAC.”

A joint project by the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, the Vincent Wildlife Trust, and the Forestry Commission, a collection licence was obtained from Scottish Natural Heritage for the collection of PMs from Scotland. They were released onto land last autumn belonging to the FC whose permission was required for the release. As is the nature of such releases, there has been much secrecy regarding location and timing.

However we found out that at least some of the releases had taken part on FC land and either within or near to the European Protected site. ELF is much encouraged that FC are now properly engaging with our clients concerns, following the threat of legal action.

The article 6 (3) Habitats Reg’s Appropriate Assessment, we have now been assured will be carried out and no further releases will take place until this has been done. Only then will they have the appropriate information as to whether or not further releases will go ahead.

ELF has been working with Kim Ziya at Landmark chambers on this matter throughout and we wish to thank her for her fantastic advice and her generosity of time and for getting us so far.

Reg. 63 of the Habitats Regulations:

“(1) A competent authority, before deciding to undertake, or give any consent, permission or other authorisation for, a plan or project which—

(a) is likely to have a significant effect on a European site or a European offshore marine site (either alone or in combination with other plans or projects), and

(b) is not directly connected with or necessary to the management of that site,

must make an appropriate assessment of the implications of the plan or project for that site in view of that site’s conservation objectives.

(2) A person applying for any such consent, permission or other authorisation must provide such information as the competent authority may reasonably require for the purposes of the assessment or to enable it to determine whether an appropriate assessment is required.

(3) The competent authority must for the purposes of the assessment consult the appropriate nature conservation body and have regard to any representations made by that body within such reasonable time as the authority specifies.

(4) It must also, if it considers it appropriate, take the opinion of the general public, and if it does so, it must take such steps for that purpose as it considers appropriate.

(5) In the light of the conclusions of the assessment, and subject to regulation 64, the competent authority may agree to the plan or project only after having ascertained that it will not adversely affect the integrity of the European site or the European offshore marine site (as the case may be).

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