Nature Recovery needs shooting’s input

Ian Danby

Ian Danby

Ian Danby is BASC’s head of biodiversity and has been with the association for 20 years. His passions are wildfowling and pigeon shooting.

After speaking at a recent conference on Nature Recovery Ian Danby looks at why shooting is key to any success they might have going forward.

Whether we are talking about a climate emergency, or a nature emergency, they are in the news and high up in people’s consciousness, even with a war and cost of living worries.

When we last surveyed our members’ views on conservation, the top concerns were climate change, loss of habitat and development.

These concerns are right and bind society together but will it mean we all work together to solve them?

The Nature Recovery Network

The government put together a 25-year environment plan in 2018 and an element within it was all about creating a Nature Recovery Network. Its vision was to complement and connect our best wildlife sites together, enhance species conservation and encourage the re-introduction of native species.

As a member of the Nature Recovery Network Partnership Management group, BASC addressed the group at its first in-person conference.

There were 200 people in attendance from regulators, businesses, conservation organisations and community groups from the 600 organisations committed to the wider delivery partnership.

The group displayed the energy and drive to reverse the loss of species and nature while producing food, recreation and biodiversity. And it heard what shooting has done to help and how it is open to collaborating to do more.

Not everyone was familiar with the notion that shooting is conservation and the very real incentive it provides to increase both the extent and quality of habitats.

But the conference gave me the opportunity to provide examples of largescale wetland creation which were done in collaboration with mainstream conservation partnerships and agencies.

I also showed them landscape-scale connectivity projects where BASC shoots were the instigators of what grew, with the support of multiple farms and public funds, into a 32km network of woodland and hedgerows to allow species to relocate in response to climate change.

This work, led by BASC, drew upon the skills and experience of the local Wildlife Trust,  and we got some great stuff done by working together.

Collaboration can be the key

That was one key message for the audience – treat shooting properly and we are a great partner to work with. We have relationships with landowners and we want to help improve and create habitat. We can put in resources and drive to make a difference for nature; you just need to approach us or be open to our approach.

I also touched on a key point which is often lost in the headlines: it was about needing to create 500,000 hectares of new habitat.

For an area to become a high-quality habitat it needs ongoing land management and species management.

You can read more on this in Dr Cat McNicol’s recent blog.

Species management

Turning to species management, we are expecting a refreshed England Deer Strategy and Grey Squirrel Management Strategy from government agencies soon. We expect these policies will make the need to protect trees for carbon sequestration, nature and timber clearer than ever before.

Government is listening and accepts that species management does not just happen. Its agency staff know what is needed.

We blogged earlier this year on the funding available to farms going into countryside stewardship this year and in 2023 for control of grey squirrels and deer, something we are expecting will be brought in in the new Environmental Land Management Schemes from 2025.  

Who is going to deliver that for farmers? Mostly the shooting folk they have on the land.

On that topic the Defra confirmed it will also be looking to introduce predator management and invasive non-native species management into the new Environmental Land Management Schemes, which is something BASC has been pushing for.

What next?

Local Nature Recovery will be trialled in 2023, so we will review its development to ensure the control is effective and that it results in the protection of vulnerable species.

We are not resting on our laurels, though. We are always looking to better support our members with advice and assistance, to make that difference to their shooting experience in tandem with nature recovery.

It’s our responsibility and challenge to do that, as people who care about shooting and conservation. The public will judge us on those terms – as they should.

Want to read more blogs?

Head to our Offbeat pages here.

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