Sustainable shooting key to government’s nature recovery plans

Environment Secretary, George Eustice MP, has today (18 may 2021) published a range of action plans and funding commitments that align with the work undertaken by the shooting community.

As well as launching plans to plant more trees and to protect our precious peatlands, George Eustice has announced that the government will use the Environment Bill to set legally binding targets for nature recovery and to form a Species Reintroduction Taskforce.

England Tree Action Plan

Within the England Tree Action Plan, as well as committing to trebling tree planting targets in five years with a £500 million fund, Defra has committed itself to developing a national deer management strategy and updating the Grey Squirrel Action Plan.

Martin Edwards, head of deer management at BASC, said: “The shooting community plays a significant role in forestry management and tree planting, actively managing 500,000 hectares of woodland and 100,000 hectares of copses. The Government’s plans are ambitious but achievable if they work effectively with stakeholders.

“Recognition of deer and grey squirrel management within the Action Plan is welcome news. BASC is fully committed to a national deer management strategy that accepts into policy the requirement to control and manage deer populations.”

England Peat Action Plan

Recognising the importance of peatlands to storing and sequestering carbon, the England Peat Action Plan is of vital importance to the government’s aims of Net Zero by 2050. The government have committed £50 million funding over the next five years.

Gareth Dockerty, BASC’s uplands officer, said: “The Government’s commitment to take action to restore peatlands and implement wildfire risk assessments into the agri-environment schemes is welcome news to the uplands community.

“Private investment by the shooting community to block agricultural drains and plant up gullies is exemplary. A firm commitment of funding will help landowners continue to work with communities and conservation organisations to finish the job.”

Species Reintroduction Taskforce

On the announcement of a Species Reintroduction Taskforce that will explore reintroducing lost species and aid declining species, Dr Conor O’Gorman, head of campaigns and policy at BASC, said: “For the Government and this taskforce to achieve their objectives they will require complete cross-stakeholder support.

“BASC and our members have been involved in a range of successful re-introductions and re-colonisations such as water voles, red squirrels and ospreys. The shooting community is an asset to the government’s plans, and we are firmly resolved to seek a place at the table.”

Environment Bill

In his speech George Eustice also committed to “amending the Environment Bill to require an additional legally binding target for species for 2030, aiming to halt the decline of nature”.

Dr O’Gorman added: “These are warm words for the environment but need to be backed up with sufficient action. Success can be achieved if the government works across the stakeholder spectrum. The shooting community is responsible for so much good that is in the countryside. We provide 16,000 conservation jobs and spend £250 million a year on conservation projects. We stand ready to continue assisting in nature recovery.”

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