MORE than £50million has been pledged for the conservation of seriously threatened hen harriers across the country, including in their former stronghold in Lancashire.

The announcement comes a day before the ‘Glorious Twelfth’, the traditional start of the four-month grouse shooting season.

People from all over the country are expected to head for the Lancashire moors, paying thousands of pounds to join exclusive shoots of wild red grouse.

The season is set to start with a ‘national spotlight’ on the plight of the hen harriers by moorland owners nationwide committing to a £52.5 million annual spend on conservation.

A peaceful day of protest was held in Dunsop Bridge, organised by the North West Raptor Protection Group at the weekend, calling on more protection of hen harriers during the shooting season.

United Utilities’ estate in the Forest of Bowland is currently home to 11 chicks, with four only being hatched 25 days ago.

Moorland Association chairman, Robert Benson, said: “We have a vital part to play in stemming the decline of some of our most vulnerable birds.”