By Roger Draycott, GWCT Head of Advisory Services
The GWCT are reminding all farmers, land managers and gamekeepers of important changes to licensing arrangements for pest control in England which came into effect on 1st January.
Defra has published all the details of the three new general licences for the control of certain bird species effective from 1st January 2021, plus its “standard licence conditions for trapping wild birds” under these licences:
New general licences for the control of wild birds - GOV.UK >
The new general licences provide the legal framework for the control of birds including various crow species, woodpigeon and Canada goose for the purposes of conservation of wild birds, flora and fauna, protecting public health and safety and to prevent serious damage to crops and livestock.
All the bird species on the current licences remain on at least one or more of the new general licences. However, there are two very important changes which users need to be aware of. The first of these is that the Conservation licence no longer covers green listed birds, although it is still valid for protection of birds of conservation concern (i.e. red or amber listed). We don’t agree with this change – the science shows that green listed species can benefit from control of certain pest species too. Secondly, rook and jackdaw have been removed from this licence, although they are still on the licence to prevent serious damage to crops and livestock.
Most shoots will have several species of conservation concern (e.g. lapwing, yellowhammer, dunnock and grey partridge) on their ground so will be justified in using the conservation licence. But we are very concerned that the approach Defra and Natural England have taken in removing green listed species like pheasants, red-legged partridges, blackbirds and chaffinches from the list that can benefit is a conservation ‘own goal’ and could remove the incentive for shoots to undertake this important form of privately funded wildlife management that is widely recognised by conservation organisations and Defra themselves. Mike Swan provides an insight in to how this will affect his small wild bird shoot in Dorset here.
Given the changes, it will be essential that users familiarise themselves and comply fully with the terms and conditions to ensure that the licences are applicable to the circumstances within which they are operating. As well as reading the licences, all trap users need to carefully study the “standard conditions for trapping wild birds”:
Trapping wild birds: standard licence conditions (GL33) - GOV.UK >
For situations that are not covered by the General Licences, practitioners will need to apply for an Individual Licence. Natural England have published details on how to start this process here:
Individual Licences for the Control of Wild Birds – an update on this year’s application process - Natural England - GOV.UK >
For enquiries about General Licences in England contact firstname.lastname@example.org.