AN ANIMAL rights organisation has claimed that controversy over NRW plans to to lease land it owns in Ceredigion to commercial shoots for game birds has led to a public consultation over the future of shooting rights on the body’s land.
NRW leases five current areas of public land to commercial game shoots and those leases were not entered into by NRW, but by its predecessor bodies (Countryside Council for Wales, Environment Agency Wales and the Forestry Commission Wales). However, in addition to the five leases it inherited, NRW has sought to lease two additional sites for game shooting in Ceredigion: in the Tarenig and Myherin forests near Devil’s Bridge.
The birds involved would be pheasants, farmed elsewhere on a rear and release system for sports shooting.
Leaked internal NRW documents, including memoranda, criticise the proposed lease of Myherin Forest.
Nick Young, NRW Conservation Manager, wrote: “My considered opinion is that Myherin is not suitable for a leased shoot as things stand, and that any intention to take this proposal forward should require wider NRW and partner body consultation and an Ecosystem Appraisal of the likely effects of these shooting lease proposals.”
Peter van-Velzen, Programme Manager, said: “In my view the financial, employment and environmental impacts to harvesting by letting shooting rights here, will far outweigh the monetary income generated by a let. I note that no financial comparison has been carried out as part of this exercise.”
Nick Young also challenged a claim that the land earmarked for shooting was in ‘inconsistent use’ by the public. He pointed to Nantsyddion Bothy, which ‘is currently leased/loaned to the Mountain Bothies Association and is well used by walkers and well maintained at no cost to NRW. It forms part of a chain of bothies through Wales and often used in conjunction with Nant Rhys in Tarenig. Both Nant Rhys and Nantsyddion are well used’.
‘Does NRW really want the negative publicity of evicting MBA in favour of creating a shooting lodge?’
Animal Aid claims that NRW kept lease agreements ‘secret’ from the public and has launched a petition calling for ‘an end to ‘sport shooting’ on public land’. The text of the petition goes on to claim that ‘a properly conducted, independent and stakeholder-inclusive review should come to the conclusion that shooting should be banned on Welsh public land’.
The organisation also states that: “To ensure high stocks of pheasants on shoot days, NRW’s shoot tenants eliminate foxes, stoats, weasels, corvids and rodents.”
Last week, The Herald featured a story regarding one private shoot landowner’s campaign against the reintroduction of pine martens to the woodlands of Mid and West Wales.
A spokesperson for the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) explained to The Herald that BASC data does not separate out NRW land from other land upon which shoots take place in Wales.
They went on to say: “Shooting in Wales supports almost 2,500 full time jobs throughout the supply chain. This equates to £64m per year spent in Wales by shoot providers and participants annually. Shooting in Wales has been estimated to provide Gross Value Added of £75 million to the UK economy and can be an important source of income outside of traditional tourism periods. BASC, therefore, believes that shooting makes a significant contribution to the public estate.”
NRW were unable to provide The Herald with a start date for the consultation, as it is still finalising the arrangements, but the work will be finished in 2017.
Chris Tucker, Forestry Advisor for Natural Resources Wales who is leading the review, said: “One of our roles is to make the most of the land we manage on behalf of Welsh Government to benefit people, economy and the environment in Wales.
“Part of this work is the shooting rights we lease to third parties which have detailed plans to prevent harm to wildlife and the environment.
“We are carrying out a formal review of our policy on shooting on the land we manage, including activities by third parties, and this will include a consultation with the public to get their views.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson told us: “Natural Resources Wales is currently carrying out a review of its policy on shooting on NRW owned and managed land. The Welsh Government will be consulted during the review to ensure the review itself addresses the complaints received about animal welfare.”