BASC has warned that a decision to ban grouse shooting on Ilkley Moor will be calamitous for conservation in the area.

It has been reported that Bradford Council’s Labour group has voted not to renew the shooting lease held by the Bingley Moor Partnership since 2008. The Labour group holds a majority on the council and a decision to ban shooting could now be taken without a full council meeting.

The vote follows three years of campaigning by anti-shooting extremists who have demanded the end of Ilkley Moor’s status as the last remaining council-owned moor on which grouse shooting continues.

Gareth Dockerty, regional officer for BASC north, said: “It is devastating for the fragile biodiversity of the moor that councillors have had their heads turned by extremists who know so little of grouse moor management.

“The scientific evidence shows that the management of sensitive moorlands for grouse shooting has clear economic, social and environmental benefits.

“Heather moorland is rarer than rainforest and under good management for grouse shooting, other threatened birds thrive and biodiversity improves. Why would you want to destroy such a benefit to the environment?

“A decision to end grouse shooting on the moor will be a tragedy for conservation. Grouse moors support a vast range of wildlife and this is absolutely down to the efforts of gamekeepers and farmers. Curlews and the full range of upland waders thrive on managed moorland.

“This vote was by the Labour Group of councillors, which has political control of the council. It is unclear how that vote translates to a policy decision. There may be other steps to be taken and BASC has contacted the council for clarification of certain issues, including the status of the management plan for the moor.”

The council had previously acknowledged the positive effect of a gamekeepers on the moor while also recognising the positive benefits of heather and bracken management associated with grouse shooting.

In 2016, they agreed to licence eight days of shooting per year on the publicly owned land. But that agreement is due to come to an end this year.

Mr Dockerty added: “It is alarming to think that in times of continued austerity, the management of this fragile moor could now have to be paid for out of the public purse. History shows the danger of not effectively managing such areas.

“If the heather-clad uplands are not effectively managed, the heather becomes long and rank, creating a sterile wilderness that, in turn, becomes a dangerous wildfire risk. Sadly, this happened on Ilkley Moor before it was managed for shooting.”

Ian Grindy, a BASC council member and chair of the association’s gameshooting and gamekeeping committee, said: “Hysteria and extremism is in danger of trumping good science and common sense.

“The scientific evidence shows that the management of sensitive moorlands for grouse shooting has clear economic, social and environmental benefits. Grouse shooting supports the equivalent of over 2,500 jobs and has an annual value to the UK economy of around £100 million. It strengthens local communities.”

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