Opinion Former Article

Countryside Alliance: Where government fails, grouse shooting and moorland management succeeds



Alice Barnard, Chief Executive: “Nowadays everything that is good for the environment is immediately picked up by the Government, given taxpayer subsidy and over-administrated. Yet quietly and consistently the shooting community is undertaking fantastic conservation work that will benefit Britain and British wildlife for generations to come.”


§ In just six years, the number of grouse moors in ‘favourable’ or ‘recovering’ condition has risen from 25 to 96 per cent

§ In the past decade, 57,000 acres of moorland have been regenerated and recovered from over-grazing, afforestation and bracken encroachment, smashing the Government’s 2010 conservation target by 170 per cent

§ More than 60 per cent of England’s upland Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) are managed as grouse moors. Many are also designated Special Protection Areas and Special Areas of Conservation for rare birds and vegetation respectively

§ RSPB research shows that many rare upland wading birds are up to five times more abundant on moorland managed by gamekeepers than on other moorland and, in the North of England, 95 per cent of the surviving 800 or so breeding black grouse males - a Red List species - occur alongside moorland actively managed for red grouse

§ Grouse moor owners spend £52.5 million each year in England and Wales on moorland management, of which 90 per cent is privately funded

With the start of the grouse shooting season set for this coming Friday (12th August), the Countryside Alliance has today released a series of statistics that demonstrate the effectiveness of moorland management in conserving what was previously one of Britain’s most endangered habitats.

Heather moorland is rarer than rainforest and threatened globally: 75 per cent of what is left is found in Britain because it is managed for red grouse. This heather moorland supports a rich variety of flora and fauna, and grouse shooting has helped conserve this unique landscape where elsewhere it has been totally lost.

The success of this conservation work – conducted without Government subsidy – should stand as a guide for the Government as it seeks to promote the ideas contained within its recent Natural Environment White Paper (NEWP). This white paper proposed the creation of 12 initial Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs) at a cost of £7.5 million, Biodiversity offsetting, and New Local Nature Partnerships.

With all of these new initiatives the aim is to improve the quality of the natural environment across England and halt the decline in habitats and species. Despite the complaints of animal rights protestors, it is a fact that the work of gamekeepers and moorland managers is successfully fulfilling each one of the Government’s objectives in the NEWP, which Martin Harper, RSPB conservation director, said: “could steer us towards a future where farmland birds are no longer in decline, heathland and wetlands are no longer under threat, and some of our most threatened species are no longer teetering on the brink.”

Alice Barnard, Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance, said:

“Nowadays everything that is good for the environment is immediately picked up by the Government, given taxpayer subsidy and over-administrated. Yet quietly and consistently, the shooting community is undertaking fantastic conservation work that will benefit Britain and British wildlife for generations to come.

“If the Government is looking to improve the quality of the natural environment and halt the decline in habitats and species, it could do much worse than to look at the methods of conservation used by Britain’s gamekeepers.”

During a House of Lords debate on biological diversity on Monday 20 June, Lord (John) Gardiner - Executive Director of the Countryside Alliance - singled out the work upland landowners and grouse moor managers do in halting declines in habitats and species.

In response, Lord Henley, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minister said:

“I was very grateful for what my noble friend said about heather moorland and the grouse moors. I remind him, as I think he was reminding the House, that they are really the only businesses in the upland areas that survive without subsidy.”


Notes to Editors

1. Moorland management also helps conserve peatland – another aim of the NEWP (which included the creation of a taskforce on peat lead by Dr Alan Knight OBE)

There is more carbon stored in UK peat than in the combined forests of Britain and France, representing 42 per cent of the UK’s soil carbon stock. Severe overgrazing, bracken invasion, summer wildfires, lowland peat extraction practices, and erosion by wind and water can expose peat to the atmosphere causing oxidation and the release of carbon dioxide.

Careful management of heather as part of grouse moor management helps preserve the carbon locked up in the underlying peat. Studies show that grouse moor management is a carbon positive land use – actually locking up carbon. Gamekeepers have plugged 1,250 miles of moorland drainage ditches to help lock up more carbon in the peaty soil, with 823 miles still planned. When complete this will be a distance equivalent to London to Cyprus.

2. Shooting’s knock-on benefits to the British economy

Sales of grouse shooting days can help fund the work of the keepers which has the knock on benefit of protecting the habitat of over 46 different upland birds. 350 gamekeepers are employed on grouse moors, a figure which has risen by 25% since 2000. Grouse moors also create 42,500 days of work for contractors and local people.

3. About the Countryside Alliance

With over 100,000 members the Countryside Alliance defends and promotes country sports and rural life at Parliament, in the media and on the ground.

The Countryside Alliance believes a vibrant countryside needs five key changes and calls on the Government to:

COUNTRY PURSUITS – Repeal the Hunting Act and champion country pursuits
SERVICES – Ensure an accessible and reliable rural transport and broadband network
HOUSING – Promote local solutions to the lack of affordable rural housing
EDUCATION – Enable all children to gain a practical understanding of the countryside
FARMING – Support British farmers and producers

For more information or to arrange interviews please call the Countryside Alliance press office on 0207 840 9220 or 07500 834 163

Countryside Alliance
The Old Town Hall
367 Kennington Road
London SE11 4PT

020 7840 9200

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