Shooting deserves recognition

BASC has called on Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to utilise the significant benefits already implemented by shooting activities in their future conservation plans. BASC Wales director Steve Griffiths outlines BASC’s response to the consultation.

The message that shooting is an important element of rural life, one that should be encouraged and supported, was made clear in our response to the Natural Resources Wales Nature and Us consultation.

Nature and Us is a programme designed to involve the people of Wales in a national conversation about the future of the natural environment. Our response outlined the need for recognition and support for shooting in Wales.

We stressed that there should be a focus on increasing the understanding of shooting’s positive contribution to the Welsh rural economy and environment. We highlighted topics of importance for the shooting community such as tree planting, the promotion of game meat, the need for evidence-based decision making and recognition of the importance of rural communities. 

What is already happening?

Shooting is already delivering many of the ambitions outlined in the Nature and Us project, such as bringing people closer to nature and helping protect and preserve our natural environment.

The promotion and support for sustainable shooting activities in Wales can help deliver further project goals. From protecting landscapes, undertaking vital pest and predator control, supporting rural economies including the tourism and hospitality industries to improving participants’ physical and mental health, shooting activities in Wales have many wide-reaching benefits.

Land managed for shooting is central to landscape-scale conservation and is of major environmental, economic, and social benefit to Wales.

Conservation efforts

Across the country, shooting contributes to an annual spend of £7.4m on conservation and is involved in the management of 380,000 hectares, which makes up 19 per cent of its total landmass.  

We know of many game shoots and wildfowling clubs across the country that undertake large amounts of conservation work from single-species action plans to landscape-scale habitat management.

Nature and Us encourages people to think about the environment they would like to see in the future and leave behind for future generations. They accept that rural communities need to be at the heart of decision making to ensure success.

As we face the environmental challenges associated with the climate and nature emergencies, shooters and rural communities are undoubtedly equipped with the skills and knowledge to tackle these issues head-on.

Despite the consultation closing, NRW is still encouraging people to share their vision for the future of the Welsh environment. I encourage you to get involved, be part of the conversation and ensure that the voice of the shooting community is heard.

Tree planting case study

Tree planting is a Welsh Government priority. To achieve their ambitious goal of planting 180,000 hectares of new woodland by 2050, NRW must work with the shooting community who often play a substantial role in the creation and management of woodland.

Within our response to the survey, we stressed that tree planting must be only undertaken in the right places. Those are areas where it would not result in conservation conflicts that could be damaging to biodiversity and livelihoods.

The organisation also highlighted that natural regeneration must be considered and developed to the same level as tree planting.

The management of wildlife, such as deer and grey squirrel control, is an important element of effectively managing existing woodlands and one that must be understood and facilitated by policy makers. They note that without effective management, these species can negatively impact tree health and natural regeneration. The success of future planting schemes could be undermined, and Welsh woodlands and their carbon sequestration potential threatened.

BASC has undertaken a pilot Woodland Resilience Deer and Grey Squirrel Management project. This is a shared outcomes partnership with NRW working in six key areas in Wales, covering over 200,000ha.

This project assessed the condition of the Welsh Government woodland estate for deer and grey squirrel impact, and its interaction with connected woodlands in private ownership.

The project paves the way for landscape-scale and effective management of deer and grey squirrel to provide the environmental, social, and economic benefits to Welsh woodlands.