Significant grant awarded to save curlew from local extinction

The Wildlife Habitat Charitable Trust (WHCT) has agreed a £75,000 grant to help restore the breeding curlew population in Southern England. The grant has been awarded to the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust’s (WWT) ‘Combating the Curlew Crisis Project’, which forms part of the WWT’s overall Eurasian curlew recovery work. This project focuses on securing the breeding population in the Severn and Avon Vales. The aim is to see the curlew’s local breeding population increase to 50 pairs in five years’ time. The money will cover funds for a project officer to provide engagement with local communities including farmers and land managers, and the monitoring of released birds.   The WHCT, set up by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) in 1992, provides grants to help support and maintain Special Protections Areas and undertake research for the public benefit in the conservation of wildlife. Paul Williamson, secretary of the WHCT, said: “The plight of the curlew in Southern England is well documented, without the necessary help they could easily become extinct. This project will not only counter the decline in the region, but the lessons learnt will help provide a model to protect the species nationally. “Our support and belief in this project has led us to award the WWT with the one of the largest grants ever given by the Trust, and we are excited to see it progress.” Geoff Hilton, Head of Conservation Evidence for WWT, said: “We welcome this grant, along with others, to ensure we can continue our vital work to protect curlews in the Severn and Avon Vales.  “Curlews should be considered the UK's most urgent bird conservation priority. Britain holds a quarter of the world’s curlew breeding population, but the species currently faces regional extinction. This important project sets out to help counteract this threat. By working with local land managers to adapt habitat to help curlew thrive during the breeding season, the project also creates wildlife friendly wetland habitat for a range of species.” ENDS… Notes to Editors: The Wildlife Habitat Charitable Trust (WHCT) provides habitat conservation grant support to national and international projects. The WHCT was set up by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), to be shooting’s conservation charity. For more information on the WHCT please visit: http://www.wht.org.uk/ The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) Wetlands are essential for all life, including humankind and yet they are disappearing three times faster than forests. The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) is a conservation charity working to save wetlands globally and in the UK for wildlife, people and our planet.  WWT runs ten reserves across the UK, managing 3000 hectares of the best wetland habitat in the UK, and providing inspirational experiences to encourage people to value wetlands and the amazing wildlife they support.  To find out more visit wwt.org.uk.

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Certificate holders facing firearms licensing ‘postcode lottery’, says BASC

BASC’s fourth annual review of firearms licensing performance shows a wide spectrum of results, ranging from very good to “shockingly dreadful”. BASC’s director of firearms has called for consistency of performance following the publication of the review’s results in the form of a league table and said the figures strongly suggest the solution to the problem is for firearms licensing to be dealt with on a national basis. The association’s firearms team has obtained and analysed figures for firearm (FAC) and shotgun (SGC) certificate grants and renewals and coterminous grants and renewals from individual police forces across England and Wales. Nationally, the best performing forces based on average application processing times in 2020 were Cambridgeshire*, Bedfordshire*, Hertfordshire*, Warwickshire and Thames Valley. The bottom five forces were South Wales, Durham, West Midlands, Greater Manchester and Avon & Somerset. Thames Valley, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Warwickshire showed the greatest improvement in turnaround times in 2020 compared with 2019. The forces with the greatest deterioration in turnaround times were Durham, Northumbria, Northamptonshire, Cumbria and Metropolitan. Bill Harriman, BASC’s director of firearms, said: “This current crop of figures reveals a wide spectrum of performance from the very good to the shockingly dreadful. “Certificate holders in England and Wales face a postcode lottery as to the level of service that they will receive. This cannot be right when people pay for a service from the police. Consistency of performance needs to be achieved across the piece. It is interesting that those forces who have combined firearms licensing departments in alliances tend to perform better. This strongly suggests that the solution to the problem is for firearms licensing to be dealt with on a national basis. “The lockdown of recent months has shown that greater efficiencies with modern IT can be achieved. It has shown some forces embracing modern IT and using it for things like online applications and online interviews.  BASC will be pressing for these to remain in place after the pandemic has ended. “BASC is seeking the support of PCC candidates to secure improvement of badly performing firearms licensing departments.” The latest table is based on figures from 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2020 and uses a traffic light system to show relative performance. Green cells indicate above average performance, while red cells show below average performers. Yellow indicates average performance. Each cell shows the relevant average, recorded in calendar days. The table can be found here: https://basc.org.uk/firearms/firearms-licensing-league-table/ BASC members should contact the firearms team if they have any queries regarding the firearms licensing process. In the run up to the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections on 6 May, BASC’s political team has contacted all candidates to ensure our continuing concerns regarding firearms licensing are recognised. Read more here: https://basc.org.uk/firearms-licensing-issues-raised-with-pcc-candidates/ ENDS Notes to editors: BASC’s research shows the mean average for FAC grants in 2020 was 75 days compared to 61 days in 2019 and 69 days in 2018. SGC grants showed an 81 day average compared to 59 days…

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Northern Ireland wild game import regulations are ‘practically impossible’, says BASC

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) is backing efforts by government to challenge rules which make it ‘practically impossible’ to bring game meat into Northern Ireland. Game meat, leaving Great Britain for personal consumption has fallen foul of Brexit, meaning Northern Ireland visitors to Great Britain must comply with regulation to take home their shot quarry. BASC believes the rules will significantly damage shooting tourism between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. BASC’s Northern Ireland director Tommy Mayne said: “These new requirements make it practically impossible for Northern Irish shooters to take home their wild game meat for personal consumption and mean that most if not all hunters will travel home empty handed.  “Thousands of shooters travel between Northern Ireland and Great Britain every year and these regulations are wholly disruptive to shooting tourism, overly burdensome and needlessly bureaucratic.” BASC has written to the Norther Ireland’s Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Edwin Poots MLA, and he has, in turn, contacted the European Commission. In a written reply to BASC, Minister Poots said: “I have written to the European Commission highlighting the requirements associated with Export Health Certificates (EHC) and requested that consideration be given to mitigations for these rules where possible.” As a result of the EU Withdrawal Agreement and the NI Protocol, the Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) is required to carry out checks on meat entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain, in line with EU law. Anyone wishing to bring dead wild game into Northern Ireland must first have it inspected in Great Britain by an Official Veterinarian who, when satisfied, will issue an EHC. To satisfy the requirement of the EHC, the meat must have been processed in an establishment approved for export to the EU and which is listed on the European Commission website. The EHC must accompany the meat to the Border Control Post (BCP) in Northern Ireland. The BCP must be notified of the intended arrival a minimum of 24 hours in advance and a failure to declare the consignment would be an offence. BASC is also working closely with the European Federation for Hunting and Conservation (FACE) to raise the issue with the EU Commission. Mr Mayne added: “There are a number of significant issues for the shooting community falling out of Brexit, game meat for personal consumption is just one of them. BASC is fighting these issues at every turn.” ENDS

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BASC responds to Welsh Labour manifesto

BASC is strongly opposed to vague and ill-prepared proposals within the Welsh Labour manifesto, titled ‘Moving Wales forward’, launched in the run up to the elections on 6 May. The manifesto outlines proposals that will: Introduce “registration for animal welfare establishments, commercial breeders for pets or for shooting”Ban the use of snares Bronwen Gardner, BASC Wales public affairs manager, said: “No justification has been provided regarding the introduction of the measures proposed in the Welsh Labour manifesto. BASC is clear that any policy changes should be evidence led and be developed through consultation with industry stakeholders. “Including such ill-prepared and vague proposals such as ‘shoot registration’ within a manifesto is irresponsible and completely unsupportable.” On the manifesto pledge to ban snares, Bronwen said: “BASC was one of the stakeholder organisations involved in the development of the Welsh Government’s code of best practice on the use of snares and continues to actively engage with Welsh Government officials to promote compliance with the code. There is no evidence to justify any legal changes to the use of snares and we are strongly opposed to its inclusion in the manifesto. “BASC will continue to engage with candidates for the upcoming Senedd election, highlighting the vital contribution of shooting to the Welsh economy, communities and role in protecting ecosystems and helping wildlife to thrive.” ENDS Notes to Editors: More information on BASC’s policy priorities for the upcoming election can be found in BASCs ‘Manifesto for sustainable shooting sports’.

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Fix firearms licensing, BASC tells PCC candidates

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) has written to all prospective Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) to request assurances that improvements will be made to the firearms licensing system if they are successfully elected on 6 May. As the only shooting organisation that monitors the performance of firearms licensing, BASC’s correspondence highlights the current lack of consistency across forces, the slow uptake of digitalisation, the appalling implementation of medical verifications and the complete lack of uptake of medical markers. Sophie Hutchinson, BASC’s political affairs manager, said: “BASC has requested commitment from all the candidates that they will budget and make available resources for all necessary improvements within their force. “Ensuring PCCs understand and support firearms licensing is essential to ensure the system protects public safety and delivers an efficient service that our members can rely on.” BASC will request meetings with elected PCCs to discuss in further detail the issue of firearms licensing as well as rural and wildlife crime priorities. [ENDS]

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BASC to build bird boxes virtually with Suffolk schools

Pupils at 45 schools across Suffolk will have flat-packed bird boxes waiting for them when they return following the latest lockdown courtesy of the UK’s largest shooting organisation, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC). BASC has put the packs together and will help teachers and pupils assemble the boxes and put them up via two pre-recorded videos. The boxes have been provided as part of a project that BASC is involved in which is aimed at bringing the countryside to children in primary schools across Suffolk. Outreach Outdoors was launched by the Suffolk Agricultural Association (SAA), with support from BASC, after the cancellation of the SAA’s School Farm and Country Fair last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Ray Goodman, spokesman for SAA, said: “Cancelling the 2020 fair meant around 4,500 children were not able to benefit from the ‘hands-on’ experience of food, farming and country pursuits which have made the event such a great success for the past two decades. “So we have adapted our ways of working and instead will be bringing a celebration of the countryside direct to primary school children in their classrooms in 2021.” Terry Behan, BASC’s director for the East of England, said the boxes would provide an important habitat for songbirds around the schools, where pupils would be able to observe them and take part in species counts in the future. He said: “In a time of need we have come together to create an informative engaging lesson for the children of 45 schools.  The lesson will get the children out in the fresh air whilst learning about the importance of conservation.” Curtis Mossop, BASC’s head of pathways to shooting, added: “Hundreds of children will return to the classroom this spring to find a BASC bird box, in kit form, ready for them to build with their teachers with the help of the pre-recorded BASC videos. The Outreach Outdoors project is a fantastic example of the collaborative relationship between BASC and the Suffolk Agricultural Association to provide fun, conservation themed engagement opportunities for children in the region.” For more information on the project and to book, click here. ENDS

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Action plan needed for wild boar in Wales, BASC tells Welsh Government

An action plan is required to control the spread of wild boar across Wales and prevent the variety of associated negative impacts they can have on livestock, public health and the landscape, BASC has told politicians and candidates ahead of the upcoming Senedd elections.In its Manifesto for Sustainable Shooting Sports, launched this week, BASC urges all Members of the Senedd to acknowledge the role shooting plays in Wales’ environment and rural economy and the physical and mental wellbeing benefits.Four key policy proposals are set out in the manifesto, one of which - Species conservation management – highlights the threat wild boar pose and calls for the production of a five-year Feral Wild Boar Management Action Plan for Wales.BASC Wales director Steve Griffiths said the chief concerns regarding increased population size and spread of wild boar were road traffic accidents, damage to agriculture and landscape and the impact of wild boar breaking into farms which could include the transmission of disease - especially into the domestic pig herds of Wales, damage and escapees.He said: “Feral wild boar are established in Wales but are currently mostly confined to the south east of the country, mainly to the east of the River Wye.“There is a growing concern over the expanding wild boar population in the Forest of Dean and some wild boar releases in South Wales, too. They have been spotted in Bridgend and Monmouthshire. Apart from the extensive damage to road verges, village greens, gardens and football pitches for example, they contribute to an increased number of road traffic accidents, which can be fatal. If African Swine Fever ever got to the UK, the wild boar population could further its transmission.”Mr Griffiths said Defra had a Feral Wild Boar Action Plan, but the Welsh Government has not yet published a plan for Wales.He added: “What is needed in Wales is an action plan that will enable us to get in control of the population, further our understanding of their ecology and benefit from the sale of wild boar meat.“The Defra plan helps protect domestic farming herds from disease and habitat in England, and it is vital that Wales develops and implements a management plan while there is still an opportunity and time to control the spread of wild boar across the country.”BASC Wales is calling on candidates in the upcoming Senedd elections to recognise the value of shooting to Wales with the launch of the new manifesto – read more here.To read the manifesto, click here for the English version or click here for the Welsh version.

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Value of shooting in Wales highlighted to Senedd election candidates

BASC Wales is calling on candidates in the upcoming Senedd elections to recognise the value of shooting to Wales with the launch of a new manifesto. The Manifesto for Sustainable Shooting Sports, launched by BASC today (6th April), urges all Members of the Senedd to acknowledge the role shooting plays in Wales’ environment and rural economy and the physical and mental wellbeing benefits. Steve Griffiths, BASC Wales director, said: “Shooting is an integral part of Wales’ cultural, economic and environmental fabric.  Shooting activities in Wales contribute £75 million to the UK economy each year, supporting the equivalent of 2,400 full-time jobs. These contributions are critical – without them, many fragile rural communities would struggle to survive. “In addition, the management practices associated with shooting play a pivotal role in protecting ecosystems and helping wildlife to thrive. Across Wales, shooting contributes to an annual spend of £7.4 million each year on conservation, which is the equivalent of 490 full-time jobs or 120,000 conservation work days. “Our ask is simply to work with stakeholders on developing policies to manage the countryside.” Mr Griffiths added: “In this manifesto ahead of the 2021 Senedd Elections, we highlight our policy recommendations for shooting sports, which we believe should be adopted and endorsed by Wales’ political parties. “We make these recommendations in good faith and with an open invitation to discuss them with elected representatives, parliamentary candidates, policy-makers and stakeholders. “The Welsh countryside is a complex place with a diversity of interests, and traditional land uses are facing unrelenting calls to justify their own existence. We want this to change. We are confident that our policy proposals show why shooting is compatible with an increasingly diverse countryside.” Four key policy proposals are set out in the manifesto: Sustainable sporting shooting for Wales – health and wellbeing Protecting sustainable sporting shooting and its role in Wales’ rural economySustainable moorland/peatland managementSpecies conservation management The manifesto also outlines how shooting contributes towards the seven wellbeing goals within the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.  To read the manifesto, visit https://basc.org.uk/download/294496/ for the English version or visit https://basc.org.uk/download/294500/ for the Welsh version.

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