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The RSPB have spent millions of public money on the Lake Vyrnwy reserve, yet wildlife has plummeted

[Can anyone see any wildlife in this photo?]

Last year the RSPB’s income stood at £142.6 million. That amount was made up from a combination of the members subscriptions (£55.1m), grants and public funding.

That’s a lot money, I think everyone can agree and little wonder that the RSPB can continue to spend so lavishly.

Whether it is spending over a million pounds buying up every available lethal animal trap to kill stoats in the Orkney Islands or using public money to protect a new nature reserve in Scotland that was already protected by European Union Laws, it would seem that value for money is not something Martin Harper and the rest of the RSPB leadership seem to worry much about.

[The man in this image is not the RSPB's Martin Harper]

Which makes it all the more bewildering that Mark Thomas, the RSPB’s investigation chief, felt during his live Hen Harrier day performance with the erudite Megan McCubbin that the most important thing people could do to help endangered bird species in the UK was….donate more money to the RSPB. Evidently £142.6 million is not enough to do the job properly.

What make Thomas’ begging bowl even more ludicrous is just how little the taxpayer is getting in return for the money being spent by the RSPB. Nowhere is this lack of value for the taxpayer more clear than what has happened at Lake Vyrnwy, the RSPB flagship reserve in Wales.

If ever there was an example of what happens as an alternative to private moorland management, this is it. When it was run as a grouse moor, Lake Vyrnwy was bustling with wildlife but now, in the RSPB’S own words in their appeal video, ‘over the last thirty years [there has] been a dramatic decline in wildlife.’

So just to be clear what has happened at Lake Vyrnwy was that when it was run privately there was an abundance of black grouse, merlin and hen harriers amongst other species. But then the RSPB took over management of the reserve, using millions of pounds of public money, and then they managed to lose all the wildlife they were responsible for looking after.

But things then get even more ridiculous. Because the RSPB had used all the money they had on Lake Vyrnwy, they then needed to launch an appeal for more public and private money to ‘try and get some wildlife back’. You could not make this up and they even say as much in their funding appeal video.

In their £3,299,900 funding application to the Heritage Lottery Fund [in addition to the other local government funding applications], obtained by a freedom of information act, the RSPB state: “Without the serious interventions RSPB is proposing in this bid, in the next few years curlew, black grouse and merlin will cease to appear as a breeding species in this area of Wales. It is likely that the same fate would fall red grouse and hen harrier within the next decade.”

A full list of additional grants provided to RSPB from Welsh Government from 2014 - 2019 can be found below.

Given this catastrophic decline in wildlife across Lake Vyrnwy that the RSPB outline it is surely beyond parody that they presume to lecture others on how to manage their land.

If the RSPB are now trying to raise more money for their projects, beyond the £142.6million they already have this year, we might suggest they would better off not exploiting public appearances with a begging bowl but instead looking internally where they can spend the £142.6million it already has more efficiently.

A good example of this perhaps might be to try not to lose the wildlife you’ve been tasked with managing in the first place or hiring a plethora of expensive professional services firms. Just a thought.


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