BASC has said the inclusion of projects that are benefitted by shooting in Defra’s recently released proposals for the new Environmental Land Management scheme are “a step in the right direction”.

The association says it is “essential” that the contribution of shooting is recognised in any new environment scheme, especially in relation to conservation objectives associated with improving farm wildlife and habitats, and food production.

The government’s new Environmental Land Management system is a key part of the Agriculture Bill which is currently in development. Proposals for the new scheme reference projects that are benefitted by the shooting community and game management.

The scheme’s priority is to replace the worn-out Countryside Stewardship Scheme.

Paul Williamson, BASC’s head of land management, said: “This will no doubt be a monumental piece of work, paying due diligence to both public goods and food production will involve a fine balancing act.

“Each part of the three-tier proposal includes opportunities for the shooting community and game management. Tier one, which will be open to all farmers, acknowledges the importance of pest management.

“The more targeted tiers 2 and 3 propose habitat creation and restoration from woodland to coastal wetlands and salt marshes. Also specifically mentioned is the inclusion within the scheme of wildlife reintroductions and tackling invasive species.

“It is encouraging that Defra has acknowledged BASC’s 2018 submitted evidence and that they are now ready to acknowledge the work that has long been undertaken by our members.”

Mr Williamson said landscape-scale management, natural capital and ecosystem services initiatives were becoming increasingly important in light of increasing pressures on the UK’s natural environment from development, population growth and climate change.

He added: “We want to see shooting help deliver the conservation objectives within each sector.

“For too long game management has been under-recognised. BASC will be responding positively but with the understanding that more can be done.

“BASC members and the wider community can deliver the conservation workforce, investing time and money into targeted projects. We can become the citizens’ army to tackle invasive species, we can protect crops, livestock and woodland and provide environment biodiversity benefits that far outweigh any other conservation organisation. Shooting and conservation are symbiotic and now is the time to ensure the Government takes notice.

“BASC’s work with the Squirrel Accord, on mink control and through its Green Shoots Mapping website also overlaps with many objectives named in the policy document. We look forward to the next stages of the process and will be actively seeking to be involved within the debate.”

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