General licences in Wales

Common Jay Garrulus glandarius. Photo: Andy Rouse

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) ordered a review of licencing arrangements following a legal challenge in England by campaign group Wild Justice, headed by TV naturalist Chris Packham and fellow conservationists Mark Avery and Ruth Tingay.

Seven rural groups with little knowledge of nature conservation are ‘up in arms’ over unpublished proposals by Natural Resouces Wales (NRW, the rough equivalent of Natural England in Wales). The groups (Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, Countryside Alliance, National Gamekeepers Organisation, Farmers Union of Wales, Countryside Land and Business Association, British Association for Shooting and Conservation and National Farmers Union Cymru) have ‘jumped the gun’ (according to NRW, rather wittily) in criticising the proposals which are as yet unpublished. No criticism has come from actual nature conservation organisations.

Wild Justice understands that the proposals will see a removal of several species from the general licence lists that will apply in Wales, following a scientific review of the evidence, and a tightening up of the circumstances under which the provisions of the general licence can be relied upon.

We understand that rather than the current approach to issuing licences for the purpose of nature conservation, which has applied across the UK, and which could be grossly oversimplified as ‘any corvid, anywhere, any time’, NRW is moving towards ‘some corvids (but only those where there is evidence of impact) and only to protect particular species of conservation concern’. This was one of the outcomes that Wild Justice sought by taking its legal action – a reexamination of the relevant science and a more focussed approach which would allow necessary lethal control as a last resort but would cut down on the casual killing of birds out of sheer prejudice.

Wild Justice said:

NRW is moving in exactly the right direction in its thinking. We welcome these moves and look forward to seeing them published and commenting on them in detail. We hope that NRW will not be bullied into watering down their proposals by landowning organisations whose interests are in game management and not nature conservation. Wales is leading the way it seems.

Wild Justice also said:

Defra promised a consultation on this matter this summer and we have yet to see anything from them. The nights are drawing in, the blackberries are ripening in the hedgerows, migrant birds are heading towards their African wintering grounds, and the leaves are beginning to turn on trees, and unless Defra pulls their finger out they will be overtaken by a period of purdah ahead of a general election. Wild Justice remains ready and willing to take legal action against Defra if it issues flawed general licences to apply in England next year. We suggest that Defra looks hard at the approach taken in Wales.