What are the natural capital benefits of shooting?

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) has published its inaugural assessment of the Natural Capital benefits of shooting. Natural Capital can be defined as the sum of financial and social benefits we get from our natural environment. This concept has increasingly shaped both international and national environmental policies and is at the core of the government’s England Environmental Improvement Plan and the forthcoming equivalent in Scotland.

Knowing that shooting in the UK is diverse and provides recreation for many people across the country, BASC wanted to determine the other benefits to society that come from its influence on natural habitats.

There are four overarching groups of benefits BASC was able to estimate in this account:

  • Carbon
  • Public Health Savings
  • Recreation
  • Food and Forestry

Combined together the benefits are in excess of £1.1 billion per annum.

Carbon – £382m

The carbon sequestration benefits of shooting’s management of land and species across woodland, wetland and saltmarsh has never been assessed and valued before. The capture, removal and storage of atmospheric carbon is critical to mitigating the impacts of climate change and the report valued the benefit from shooting’s habitat creation and management, alongside deer and grey squirrel management, at £382 million.

Public Health – £64m

The public health savings for NHS and local authority budgets are valued at £64.3 million. It is comprised of physical health benefits (£20m) and mental health benefits (£6.7m) for those involved in shooting. There is an additional benefit (£37.6m) from air pollutants removed by woodland created and managed for shooting.

Recreation – £607m

The largest benefit in monetary terms is the recreational value generated by those who shoot or support shooting, such as beaters and pickers-up. This comes in at £571.7 million from over three million days of activity spread across rural parts of the UK. Additionally, the public still benefit from an enhanced recreational experience from accessing more diverse and rich habitats as a result of shooting, valued at £35.9 million.

Food and forestry – £100m

The benefits for food production and forestry productivity that come from shooting are approximately £100 million. Shooting harvests high quality animal protein worth over £44 million. The management of species to minimise crop losses for farmers is worth £43 million a year. Similarly, the management of deer and grey squirrels avoids foresters losing over £12 million in timber output.

Commenting, BASC Head of Biodiversity Ian Danby said:

“This report has revealed the widespread natural capital benefits provided by shooting for society. Shooting is providing carbon benefits through habitat creation, management and protection. It is improving health and wellbeing for the public and participants in shooting. It is providing a recreational benefit for both those who shoot and those that do not. And it is providing food and materials by supporting farm and forestry efficiency, as well as putting low fat high protein meat onto dinner tables.

“What is striking is how balanced the public benefits from shooting are. Many forms of recreation come with health and wellbeing benefits, but how many also give society a substantial carbon benefit, result in a sustainable food supply and help our farms and foresters produce food and materials? In this respect shooting is unique.

“At BASC, we are focused on enhancing those benefits so that sustainable shooting will provide more for current and future generations.”