BASC is seeking clarification from Natural Resources Wales (NRW) on the conditions attached to its decision to support the continuation of shooting on public land.

BASC broadly welcomes NRW’s decision to agree the leading recommendations of a review paper around the use of firearms on land managed by NRW.

The paper says shooting should continue to be used to control pest species and it also supports pheasant shooting and wildfowling on its land.

But in a statement released today, NRW has said it will no longer allow the use of ‘gamebird rearing pens or release cages’ on its woodland estate.

BASC is challenging that position in light of the Welsh government’s own advice contained within its Code of Practice for the Welfare of Gamebirds Reared for Sporting Purposes.

BASC has previously published a white paper on the environmental benefits of lowland game shooting which references academic research that supports shooting’s positive influence on woodland habitats. Appropriately stocked and managed release pens can ensure positive environmental benefits for woodlands.

BASC is also seeking an urgent meeting with Welsh Environment Minister Hannah Blythyn after she wrote to NRW shortly before its board was due to decide on the review paper. Although board members subsequently supported the paper’s recommendations, they have asked the minister to clarify her statement that the Welsh government does not support commercial pheasant shooting.

That position is wildly at odds with the stance she took during recent meetings with BASC, who highlighted to her the benefits of shooting to the Welsh environment and economy.

Steve Griffiths, BASC Wales director, said: “BASC is pleased that after an exhaustive evidence-gathering process and a public consultation, NRW’s board has come out unanimously in support of shooting.

“Despite a concerted campaign by anti-shooting extremists to hi-jack the process, the rigour of the evidence-gathering process ensured the NRW board was sufficiently informed to recognise the benefits of shooting to the environment and the economy.

“But there is confusion in NRW’s statement around what it calls gamebird rearing pens and release cages. NRW, as an evidence-based organisation, does not appear to have followed the evidence on this point.

“A significant amount of habitat management is focused on managing woodlands, woodland margins and hedgerows, to maximise the quantity and quality of these features.

“We would also question the eleventh-hour intervention of the minister in this matter. Her actions appear to be more about appeasing a vocal anti-shooting urban minority rather than acknowledging the efforts of those who support the Welsh countryside.

“Shooting is worth £75 million annually to the Welsh economy, it invests £7.4 million in the maintenance and enhancement of natural resources each year and supports the equivalent of 2,400 full-time jobs.”

BASC provided a detailed response to NRW’s initial request for evidence last year, with more than 50 references to reports and peer-reviewed scientific papers provided for consideration.

BASC’s submission demonstrated that the use of firearms by professional employees and members of the public contributes towards NRW’s purpose of ensuring that the country’s environment and natural resources are sustainably managed, enhanced and used.

In response to the review, the four main recommendations supported by NRW’s board were:

  • NRW will continue to use firearms in managing the negative impacts of wild species on the land it manages to achieve the sustainable management of natural resources consistent with NRW’s land management objectives and purpose.
  • NRW will continue to consider applications for permission to carry out control of wild species using firearms on land managed by NRW.
  • NRW will continue to consider the leasing of rights for pheasant shooting, wildfowling and other pursuits involving firearms on a case-by-case basis.
  • NRW will continue to use lead ammunition but will keep under review the efficacy of available alternatives.

Peter Watson, a member of BASC council, said: “While there was a very vocal minority who sought the cessation of shooting, we welcome NRW’s evidence-based approach in supporting its four main findings.

“There is still work to be done around the issue of release pens, but BASC will be seeking meetings with NRW and the minister as a priority to secure clarity and discuss our concerns. We will continue to robustly challenge any attempts to restrict shooting in Wales.”

Garry Doolan

Garry Doolan is BASC’s deputy director of communications and public affairs. He has more than 20 years experience of journalism and the media. He joined the organisation in 2016 and is a keen shooter and beater, with his springer spaniel Quincy.

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