The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) has warned that calls for the licensing of grouse moors would have significant unintended consequences, causing a loss of valuable habitat and biodiversity and leading to unemployment and rural depopulation.
Alan Jarrett, BASC Chairman, said: “It is no accident that over 70% of moors managed for red grouse shooting in England are SSSIs. That special interest is inextricably linked and maintained by that management, and that management requires significant and ongoing investment.
“The money generated by grouse shooting is vital to pay for the management of heather moors and to provide local employment.
“It provides the incentive to manage the moors sustainably for the long-term through habitat management such as controlled heather burning and to carry out predator control to benefit ground-nesting birds such as curlew, golden plover and lapwing, and birds of prey such as merlin. Without investment in grouse moors there would be no such conservation.
“In many areas it is gamekeepers and their families that help keep upland communities viable; the local school, the local shop. Grouse shooting provides income for pubs, restaurants and hotels. Without grouse shooting local rural communities would wither and die.
“The licensing of activities which are already regulated by law is a blunt and unnecessary instrument and would harm investment. It is a poor policy tool that often fails to deliver sensible and progressive outcomes. It is no solution. It is purely red tape.
“Licensing would herald rural depopulation, habitat degradation and wildlife loss. Land which is unmanaged soon becomes a degraded asset. Biodiversity is harmed. Tourism is harmed. People leave.
“There is a better way and BASC supports the efforts of all those who wish to see the return of Hen Harriers to England’s uplands and condemns all illegal persecution. The Defra-led Hen Harrier Joint Action Plan has been developed over years to address the many and varied issues around these birds and we call on all stakeholders to come together and support it.
“No-one should put short-term campaigning above long-term success.”