Alun Davies, minister for natural resources and food in Wales, has announced a £6million fund for wildlife management in Wales at a State of Nature summit at the Royal Welsh Show, held from 22 to 25 July at Builth Wells, Powys.
This follows on from the publication of the State of Nature: Wales report earlier this year, which showed the dramatic declines in many wildlife species and habitats in Wales.
The funding will be used in specific areas, such as river basins and upland and lowland areas.
As well as the extra funding, an audit on Welsh habitats and species will be undertaken to improve existing data, as well as developing a “data hub” so that the wildlife management information can be made accessible to the public, relevant organisations and academia.
Mr Davies said: “We need to take urgent action to halt these declines. The summit is about bringing the relevant partners together so that we can reach a consensus on the best way forward.”
“The measures… will ensure we have high-quality, consistent and easy-to-share data, and a mechanism that will fund joint working to protect wildlife and habitats in specific geographic areas across Wales.”
The National Gamekeepers Organisation (NGO) welcomed the move.
A spokesman told Shooting Times: “The NGO was at the meeting where the minister stressed that this was a new dawn for wildlife conservation in Wales, emphasising the importance of collaboration between partners in developing effective conservation policy. The NGO looks forward to working closely with the Welsh Government, statutory agencies and other conservation bodies.”
“The NGO reminded the minister and the meeting that gamekeepered shoots in Wales are wildlife honeypots and that the more widespread adoption of the twin-track approach of habitat management coupled with predator control would be crucial to boosting numbers of declining farmland birds and upland breeding waders.”
One of the few success stories in the State of Nature: Wales report is the Black Grouse Recovery Project, which the NGO said was a perfect example of the conservation work done by keepers: “The Black Grouse Recovery Project was the result of the work of a single team of gamekeepers in the area around Ruabon in Wrexham, who in 2013 have produced 85% of the lekking blackcock in this pan-Wales, multi-agency project. They also generated the lion’s share of the birds in past years.”
The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) also welcomed the funding, and hopes it will increase the partnership between conservation organisations, landowners and game managers.
Ian Lindsay, director of advisory and education at the GWCT, told Shooting Times: “The great challenge now is that this funding is prioritised towards advancing measurable species recovery, particularly those in a perilous position such as upland waders. The hope is that there will be an increased partnership with land and game managers, who already deliver so much towards the conservation of wildlife species and habitats at no cost to the taxpayer.”