Campaigners warn licensing scheme to regulate release of gamebirds is ‘a threat to rural livelihoods’
Rural campaigners have criticised proposals for the introduction of a licensing scheme to regulate the release of gamebirds in Wales.
National Resources Wales (NRW) has launched a 12-week public consultation on the plans following concerns over potential environmental impacts from these releases, particularly to protected sites.
In a statement announcing the consultation NRW said: “The available evidence shows that management activities carried out by the game shooting sector can deliver benefits for biodiversity” but adds that “the release of gamebirds can also lead to harm, particularly where they happen in sensitive locations or at unsustainable levels.”
The statement also asserts that the plans are “not a consultation on whether or not shooting live quarry should continue to be allowed in Wales.”
But the Countryside Alliance claims the scheme poses “a threat to rural livelihoods” and biodiversity and could lead to a ban on game shooting.
The organisation says that if the licensing system for the release of pheasants and red-legged partridge in Wales is introduced, it would give “an anti-shooting Welsh Government the power to shut down game shooting in Wales.
Rachel Evans, director of Countryside Alliance Wales said: “The consultation sadly seems to have a predetermined outcome, and that regardless of the evidence the Minister is determined to see all shoots in Wales licensed, ignoring the fundamental question of whether licensing is either necessary or proportionate.
“It is vital the Welsh Government await the full evidence from the consultation, before taking any firm policy decisions which could have a catastrophic impact on the livelihoods of rural workers and the rural economy, biodiversity, and the Welsh Government’s own sustainability goals”.
NRW says it proposals consider its duties towards protected sites as well as to species and habitats protected under Welsh legislation, particularly those listed under section 7 of the Environment (Wales) Act 2016 as “being of principal importance to the maintenance and enhancement of biodiversity in Wales.”
It has advised Welsh Ministers to take the necessary steps to add common pheasant and red-legged partridge to lists of non-native species that are already established in the wild, but which may pose a conservation threat to native biodiversity and habitats.
This would mean that any release of those species in Wales would need to be carried out under a licence issued by NRW.
The proposals are for gamebird releases that are 500m or more from a sensitive SSSI or European protected site and follow widely accepted good practice to be permitted under the terms of a general licence, which follows the Game and Wildlife Trust’s Guidelines for Sustainable Gamebird Releasing.
Releases within sensitive protected sites, or within 500m of their boundaries, will need a specific licence from NRW. Specific licences must be applied for, are given individual consideration by NRW, and applicants for specific licences will be asked to demonstrate how they will ensure their releases will not harm the environment, and ideally provide benefits for biodiversity.
NRW is also proposing to identify protected sites where gamebird releases would be highly unlikely to have an impact on any of the designated features, with the general licence available to use in these sites.
The licensing scheme could be introduced for the for the 2024-25 shooting season.
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