Well done Wales!

Natural Resources Wales (the equivalent of Natural England, the Environment Agency and Forestry England rolled into one) has issued its new General Licences which are valid until the end of December 2019.

They are a big step forward and Wild Justice supports the moves that have been made to make these licences fitter for purpose. The new licences are not perfect but they are certainly better. Our view is very similar to that of the RSPB as set out in this blog post.

We are promised further review of these licences in 2020.

The new GL004 limits lethal control to Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Magpie and Jay and only for the purposes of protecting the eggs and chicks of a list of species of conservation importance in Wales and only (without seeking further permission) outside of designated sites. This is a considerable clamping down on the licensed casual killing of birds in Wales. It limits the species (not enough), the location and, it appears, the time of year under which the licences can be used. We write ‘appears’ because we are sure that some shooters will say that they are shooting a Carrion Crow in November in order to protect Curlew eggs in May and we will want clarification on this matter from NRW. But it’s a good start (could be even better) and we know that it has been made in the face of strong opposition from angry men with guns.

The Annex 1 list, of species of conservation concern, is a bit ham-fisted, we would argue, given that it includes many species that never have and never will nest in Wales (so the protection of their eggs or young is rather moot). It also includes quite a few common widespread species, eg Song Thrush, which may allow those wanting to kill Magpies to do so with no earthly conservation benefit being possible since the science shows that Magpies do not have an impact on those species’ numbers.

There is also the issue of Shrodinger’s Pheasant. The Pheasant is not a species listed on Annex 1 (quite rightly – it’s a non-native species for heaven’s sake) but you will find in popping up on GL001 which sets out the rules for protecting livestock. Pheasants are livestock when they are being captive bred or are in release pens (even, it appears, when those release pens have no roof and those Pheasants can fly in and out of them). But NRW have followed NE in claiming that Pheasants are livestock when they are ‘kept’ and that any Pheasant that has been released into the wild but nips back now and again to have a peck of grain is still livestock. And the consequence of this is that, in theory, one could kill corvids to ‘protect’ Pheasants that were released months ago but occasionally revisit release pens. Livestock have owners. Therefore this opens up the possibility of taking legal action against the owners of free-roaming Pheasants who damage your vegetables or cause road traffic accidents – perhaps. This unsatisfactory situation needs looking into and it’s on Wild Justice’s list of issues.

We will be looking at these new licences in more detail with our lawyers.

However, Wales now has a better set of General Licences than does England or Scotland. Well done Wales! But let’s see more progress soon, please.