BASC urges members: “Have your say on general licences”

BASC is urging members to take part in a 12 week public survey launched today by environment secretary Theresa Villiers as part of a planned review of general licences to manage wild birds in England.

Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) says the aim of the review “is to ensure the licensing system is robust, striking the right balance between the protection of wild birds and the activities people such as landowners and farmers need to carry out for specific purposes, such as protecting livestock or crops or for conservation purposes.”

Defra is leading the review in close partnership with Natural England, and if you would like to take a look you can do so by clicking here.

More than 29,000 people responded to an online survey set up by BASC to gather evidence following Natural England’s revocation of general licences in England in the Summer.

The survey fed into BASC’s official response to Defra back in May, in which they called on the government department to reinstate the general licences that were withdrawn by Natural England last month as a matter of “absolute urgency”.”

In their response, BASC cited the survey’s results and said, “In total, BASC’s survey showed that almost 3.4 million days were reported to be spent annually controlling pest birds.

“It showed that 96 per cent of respondents had stopped some or all of their bird pest control as a result of the revocation, with a minimum estimated financial impact of £1,200 per respondent.”

BASC chairman Peter Glenser QC said: “This evidence paints a picture of the chaos and damage that has been wreaked across the English countryside as a result of the decision to withdraw the general licences without notice or consultation.

“The severity of the issue of the management of livestock, crops and wildlife in the last couple of weeks as a direct result of the general licences revocation without notice, consultation or transition period is clear and stark.”

BASC chief executive Ian Bell said: “Every day lost to the ongoing crisis sees more wildlife, crops and livestock damaged by these very common problematic birds. 

“We trust and hope that the review will reverse the gold plating and mission creep that has led to the current chaos and produce simple, workable licences covering all species and purposes previously included.”

BASC chief executive Ian Bell

Now as we enter autumn and the review is getting under way, BASC’s head of policy and campaigns Dr Conor O’Gorman urged people to take to their keyboards once again and respond to the online survey. 

He said: “We would urge everyone who shoots to take part in Defra’s survey. Your evidence counts. We had a fantastic response to the survey we ran over the summer which fed into our response to Defra.  

“Engaging in the process is hugely important and the more people who make their views known, the louder the voice of the shooting community.”

In other news…

BASC has said that it is fully prepared to engage in a Defra review on the way in which the release of gamebirds on or near protected sites in England is managed following a proposed legal challenge.

Defra has said this will not result in any immediate changes for owners or occupiers of land.

Ian Danby, BASC’s head of biodiversity, said: “The impacts of pheasants and red-legged partridge have been well-researched already. 

“When shoots follow the guidance in the Code of Good Shooting Practice, which is based on this research, we see benefits to the environment and the wildlife that lives there. It is the responsibility of the shooting community to make sure they do this if we are to enjoy the privilege of releasing game birds.

“If government agencies have concerns about a specific release of pheasant or partridge on or near to these protected sites they already have all the legislative tools required to intervene.

“BASC will work with our members and other countryside organisations when engaging with this review which we are confident will return the verdict that game bird releasing to the standards set down in the code are environmentally responsible and to society’s benefit.”

Glynn Evans, BASC’s head of game and gundogs, said: “Evidence of the benefits of shooting to conservation and the wider environment is well-documented.

“The Code of Good Shooting Practice, which sets out the framework for sustainable shooting, includes reference to Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust research which sets out figures for sustainable game bird releasing that do not damage the environment. 

“In fact, without driven shooting the rural environment, communities and our economy, would actually be significantly poorer.”

A Defra press release states: “The legislative regime surrounding gamebird releases will remain unchanged in the immediate term and there will be no impact on the industry.  The industry will be kept informed of progress with the review in due course.”

The detail of the review will be developed over the coming weeks.

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