Forest Service woodland in Northern Ireland should be opened up for recreational deer stalking says the UK’s largest shooting organisation, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC).
BASC is calling on its members in Northern Ireland to lobby political representatives in a bid to secure a pilot deer stalking scheme.
In response to a consultation on forestry land bylaws, BASC says participants in a recreational stalking scheme in Northern Ireland would provide valuable assistance and expertise to the Forest Service’s three wildlife rangers, who manage deer populations across 61,000 hectares of Forest Service woodland.
Tommy Mayne, BASC’s Northern Ireland director, said: “BASC is keen to provide deer stalking opportunities for members in Northern Ireland, given the increasing popularity of the sport and the need to safely manage the Province’s rapidly increasing deer population. However, BASC feels that recreational deerstalkers in Northern Ireland are being disadvantaged compared to those in the mainland UK and the south of Ireland, where recreational stalking on state forestry land is the norm. "
Mr Mayne said BASC was grateful for a recent opportunity to meet Forest Service representatives to discuss the proposed bylaws and a recreational stalking scheme. The department stated that it is happy with the service currently provided by Forest Service wildlife rangers.
Deer populations are rapidly increasing in the UK. The damage caused to trees and plants is an economic concern and also an environmental one. Deer can have a significant effect on woodland biodiversity including ground flora, small mammals and bird communities.
Tommy Mayne added: “By providing the opportunity for recreational deer stalkers to help manage Forest Service woodland, the department will be saving money and helping biodiversity in Northern Ireland. A recreational deerstalking scheme would also provide an additional revenue stream for the Forest Service and this is an opportunity that is too important to overlook.”
BASC Northern Ireland will raise the issue of recreational deer stalking with MLAs, MPs and the Minister for Agriculture. Staff will also be encouraging BASC members and the wider shooting community to contact their political representatives in order to gain political support for the proposed pilot deer stalking scheme. BASC currently has three deer stalking schemes in operation in mainland UK, one with Forest Enterprise in Thetford, one in Thirlmere and one on the Isle of Arran. All of these schemes exist on land that is open to the general public.
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Shooting sports contribute £45 million annually to the NI economy and provide the equivalent of 2,100 full-time jobs. Source – PACEC 2006.