Ru­ral Wales takes aim at ‘bizarre’ NRW shoot ban

Caernarfon Herald - - NEWS -

COUN­TRY en­thu­si­asts are poised to mount a le­gal chal­lenge to a de­ci­sion by Nat­u­ral Re­sources Wales (NRW) to ban shoot­ing in pub­lic forests.

It fol­lows wide­spread fears in the ru­ral com­mu­nity that coun­try sports in gen­eral are un­der at­tack from the ur­ban ma­jor­ity.

Tra­di­tional hunt­ing with hounds has al­ready fallen by the way­side and now an­glers are be­ing urged to pe­ti­tion the Welsh Gov­ern­ment amid fears their sport will be next.

Fu­elling ru­ral anger is the 11thhour in­ter­ven­tion from en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter Han­nah Blythyn in NRW’s shoot­ing re­view.

The Bri­tish As­so­ci­a­tion of Shoot­ing and Con­ser­va­tion (BASC) is now tak­ing le­gal advice amid con­cerns the de­ci­sion could threaten the fu­ture of game shoot­ing in the UK.

Steve Grif­fiths, BASC Wales direc­tor, said: “A de­ci­sion clearly taken against ev­i­dence to the con­trary and cost­ing pub­lic money should be chal­lengable in law. BASC in­tends to ex­plore every av­enue to seek re­dress”

A re­view of shoot­ing on the Welsh Gov­ern­ment’s wood­land es­tate con- ● Pest con­trol in pub­lic forests will be al­lowed to con­tinue and NRW will con­sider re­quests to drive birds from its wood­land es­tate – pro­vided it is not in con­nec­tion with shoot­ing. sidered 250 pieces of ev­i­dence and con­cluded the sport should con­tinue as shoot­ing con­trib­utes to the coun­try’s sus­tain­able man­age­ment and well-be­ing goals.

How­ever NRW’s board de­cided the rear­ing and shoot­ing of pheas­ants on NRW land will end from March 2019.

Three lease­hold­ers will be af­fected. One had asked for a one-year ex­ten­sion to re­lo­cate his busi­ness.

The move fol­lows com­ments from Ms Blythyn when she made it clear the Welsh Gov­ern­ment does not sup­port the sport on eth­i­cal grounds.

NRW ad­vi­sory pa­pers, pre­pared for last week’s meet­ing, ac­cepted the min­is­ter had a right to di­rect the board’s fi­nal de­ci­sion but warned of the po­ten­tial for “rep­u­ta­tion dam­age” if the board ig­nored its own sci­en­tific ev­i­dence.

Rachel Evans, Coun­try­side Al­liance direc­tor for Wales, said: “It is my firm be­lief that NRW has been pushed into mak­ing a de­ci­sion that it is not at all com­fort­able with. The board’s rep­u­ta­tion now lies in tat­ters.”

Wildlife groups hailed the de­ci­sion as a “land­mark move” and a vic­tory for an­i­mals and the wider en­vi­ron­ment.

Bethan Collins, of the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS), com­mended NRW and thanked Ms Blythyn for her in­volve­ment.

With An­i­mal Aid, LACS cam­paigned for three years to end pheas­ant shoot­ing on pub­lic land. It prompted the NRW re­view by gath­er­ing a 12,500-sig­na­ture pe­ti­tion.

A counter pe­ti­tion has now been launched on the web­site by a group calling it­self Game Shoot­ing/Man­age­ment United. It has so far col­lected 3,725 sig­na­tures.

Among its back­ers is Harry LeggeBourke of the Glanusk Es­tate, Crick­how­ell, who urged an­glers to add their op­po­si­tion. River an­gling in Wales is fac­ing its own dra­co­nian curbs next year which many fear will dec­i­mate the sport. “Now they have hit shoot­ing, next it will be fishing,” warned Mr Legge-Bourke.

The Game & Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Trust (GWCT) la­belled the NRW as “bizarre”.

Sue Evans, GWCT direc­tor Wales, said: “Those work­ing to con­serve the Welsh coun­try­side may feel frus­trated that wildlife and jobs are be­ing sac­ri­ficed to ap­pease those op­posed to shoot­ing.”

With shoot­ing worth £75m an­nu­ally to the Welsh econ­omy, sup­port­ing around 2,400 full-time jobs, sup­port­ers feel the de­ci­sion has se­ri­ous im­pli­ca­tions for ru­ral em­ploy­ment.

In re­al­ity, most shoot­ing in Wales takes place on pri­vate land and an Act of Par­lia­ment would be re­quired to cur­tail the sport.

Even so, BASC fears due pro­cesses had been sub­verted and one min­is­ter’s views had al­lowed “ex­trem­ism to tri­umph over ev­i­dence”.

BASC chair­man Peter Glenser QC said: “This isn’t ac­tu­ally an is­sue just about shoot­ing, this is about a fail­ure to have due re­gard for the con­sul­ta­tion and ev­i­dence-gath­er­ing process. The im­pli­ca­tions stretch way be­yond just shoot­ing.”

Madeleine Havard, NRW’s act­ing chair, in­sisted on­go­ing wildlife de­clines, and the need to con­serve rare an­i­mals and habi­tats, had un­der­pinned the board’s de­ci­sion.

● Shoot­ing groups claim NRW suc­cumbed to po­lit­i­cal pres­sure and some well-or­ches­trated cam­paign­ing

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