ON the 20th September 2018, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) formally took the decision to not renew leases for pheasant shooting rights on its land, when they come to an end in March 2019. The result of which consequentially affects 3 pheasant shoots which currently lease land from NRW. This decision, by the evidenced-based NRW, to ignore their own findings is truly bizarre and is a blow to wildlife and those who work in rural Wales to protect it (view our response here).
The review of NRW’s policy on the use of firearms and shooting activity on their land began in February 2017 and NRW stated it was: “Undertaken due to the introduction of new legislation in Wales and following concerns from stakeholders about animal welfare of pheasants on our land”.
The GWCT submitted evidence to the enquiry in April 2017 (view in full here) and were delighted to receive feedback in the NRW consultation documents (paper 4) of our response, stating:
“Of all the submissions, the work of the GWCT is, in our opinion, the most sophisticated, and based on extensive empirical work and peer-reviewed research papers. Their work also underpins the Code of Good Shooting Practice which is universally supported by the shooting community. This portfolio of work should be granted greater significance”(NRW consultation documents can be viewed here).
The NRW consultation supported GWCT evidence and agreed that shooting carried out within the Code of Good Shooting Practice supported Sustainable Management of Natural Resources under the Environment (Wales) Act 2016 and delivered positive outcomes for the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.
At the NRW July Board meeting all recommendations were agreed and the Position Statement proposed by the Review stated that:
“NRW will continue to consider the leasing of rights for pheasant shooting, wildfowling and other pursuits involving firearms on a case by case basis and subject to certain conditions including that NRW recovers costs involved in agreeing, managing and monitoring of lease”.
Therefore, NRW’s conclusion to their review was that they would continue to consider the leases which were in place on their land.
However, at the same meeting the Board also considered a letter received on the 9th July 2018 written by the Minister for the Environment, Hannah Blythyn stating:
“The Welsh Government does not support commercial pheasant shooting, or the breeding of gamebirds or the birds being held in holding pens on the estate prior to release on the Welsh Government Estate. I would ask our position on these issues is fed into the NRW discussions of future shooting activities on the Welsh Government estate and you consider not renewing the pheasant shooting lease agreements as they expire”.
The Minister also asked that NRW ornithologists to investigate the impact of wildfowling on rarer bird species.
The NRW Review team then met with representatives from WG to seek clarification on the issues raised in the Minister’s letter and, after meeting on the 20th September 2018 released the following statement confirming NRW will:
1) Stop leasing of pheasant shooting rights on the Welsh Government Woodland Estate (WGWE) with effect from March 2019, when the current leases expire. NRW will not offer any extension to existing leases
2) Consider requests for permissions to drive birds from the WGWE, provided that activity does not involve flushing pheasants over guns from the WGWE
3) Review the leasing of wildfowl shooting rights when the potential impacts on conservation species are known. This is pending the work being undertaken by NRW’s ornithologists on the impact of wildfowling on rare bird species
4) Continue to consider applications for permission to carry out control of wild species, impacting on neighbouring land management objectives, using firearms on the land we manage
The NRW acknowledge the risk to their reputation as an evidence-based body. Knowing that the recommendations are not consistent with the outcome of their review, their mitigation is to defer to the Minister’s correspondence and the fact that the WG woodland estate is owned by Ministers on behalf of the nation i.e. Ministers are able to direct NRW in relation to its management. Click here to read the NRW Board Paper in full and here to read the statement.
On the 26th September 2018, the Environment Minister, Hannah Blythyn addressed questions at a session of the Welsh Assembly and stated that “Welsh Government’s position is a matter for NRW’s ongoing consideration and did not bind them to accept and follow our position”.
In the meantime, Sue Evans, GWCT Director in Wales has been meeting with, and continues to meet with the Minister, NRW’s CEO and others within the organisation and Welsh Government officers to highlight the scientific evidence that shooting benefits the environment in-line with Welsh legislation which the review was put in place to consider - Well-Being and Future Generations Act 2015 and Environment (Wales) Act 2016.
The GWCT encourages its members, and anyone affected by WG’s intervention in NRW’s review, to personally write to their local Assembly Member (AM) and the Minister, outlining their opinion and the positive implications shooting has on their lives and local areas.
To find your local AM click here.
Notes to editors
The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust – providing research-led conservation for a thriving countryside. The GWCT is an independent wildlife conservation charity which has carried out scientific research into Britain’s game and wildlife since the 1930s. We advise farmers and landowners on improving wildlife habitats. We employ 22 post-doctoral scientists and 50 other research staff with expertise in areas such as birds, insects, mammals, farming, fish and statistics. We undertake our own research as well as projects funded by contract and grant-aid from Government and private bodies. The Trust is also responsible for a number of Government Biodiversity Action Plan species and is lead partner for grey partridge and joint lead partner for brown hare and black grouse.
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