Defra Green Paper offers opportunities for shooting

As part of the Government’s ambitions to restore natural habitats and halt declines in biodiversity by 2030, Defra is currently consulting on both nature recovery and environmental targets.

Shooting takes place over two-thirds of all rural land in the UK and plays a significant role in local and landscape-scale conservation efforts. As such, BASC is participating fully in Defra’s nature recovery and environmental targets consultations.

Green paper

The nature recovery consultation is based on a Green Paper which gathers thoughts on a wide range of proposals.

At the centre of the Green Paper is a consolidation of our current legal framework relating to designated sites and species protection. The paper is in effect an exploration into how best to disentangle the layers of regulation that have built up since the first designation was made in 1949.

For protected habitats (SSSIs, SPAs, SACs and RAMSAR sites), the Green Paper proposes an overhaul of their designations to produce a system that is fit for purpose, bringing it up to date for what is a dramatically changed landscape. Likewise for species protection, the proposal is to streamline the legal framework into a simplified, tiered system.

Pest control, deer management, releasing gamebirds, wildfowling and target shooting are all governed by regulations. This means that any changes to the legislative framework could impact on shooting activities, many of which, rather ironically, long pre-date the designation of the habitats. 

“In a post EU era we now have the freedom to move towards a system that focuses on nature’s recovery as well as its preservation, and which places more emphasis on science and less emphasis on legal process.” 

-Environment Secretary, George Eustice

What needs to be done for shooting?

There are three key actions that need to be addressed by any change to regulations:

  • Create a streamlined legislative framework based on the best available evidence. Protected sites are more often than not highly managed by other land uses. In many instances this management has shaped the very features that are now deemed worthy of a protected status. Shooting-related activities should be recognised as an integral part of management plans because they offer considerable benefits. An overly rigid approach of the precautionary principle is currently suffocating these benefits and having a negative impact on conservation and nature recovery.
  • Utilise the advocacy and knowledge of the shooting community. Shooting activities plough £250 million into conservation projects annually in the UK, employing the equivalent of 16,000 full time jobs. We are responsible for habitat and wildlife management of more than two-thirds of all rural land. Defra needs to work openly and progressively with the shooting sector to boost the chance of success of its objectives.
  • Deal with shooting activities fairly and proportionately. As highlighted in BASC’s White Paper, titled Shooting for a Level Playing Field, shooting activities have long been disadvantaged within the licensing and consenting process. Should Defra to develop a fair and proportionate process, regulators will be able to focus more of their time and resources tackling known damaging practices and enhancing our natural environment.

What's next?

Launched on the same day was a Green Paper and consultation on legally binding environmental targets that will see successive governments held to account. There are a range of targets over six areas. The key sections for shooting are in assisting in the biodiversity recovery targets by 2030 and 2042 and the ambitions to increase woodland cover in England to 17.5% by 2050.

If nature is to triumph once more, its going to need everyone’s help. Shooting has a key role to play in this; working together with our members, stakeholders and key partners, BASC will be fighting the shooting community’s corner to highlight the importance of our combined contributions.

BASC will be responding in full to both consultations, which close on 11 May 2022. If you would like to contribute to the BASC response, please get in touch with We would encourage those who are involved with nature recovery programmes or manage designated land to respond.