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Grouse shooting leases will not be renewed by United Utilities

United Utilities, Britain’s largest water company, has announced it will not be renewing any grouse shooting leases when they come to an end

keeper on grouse moor

Many gamekeepers affected by the decision are worried about the future of their jobs

Shooting Times understands that United Utilities, Britain’s biggest water company and also Britain’s largest corporate landowner, is going to end grouse shooting across its 56,000-hectare holding by way of not renewing any grouse shooting leases when they come to an end.

Anti-grouse shooting campaigners, including Luke Steele, the executive director of Wild Moors, said that the news was “amazing” and claimed that it reflects the values of those who “believe wildlife and habitats should be protected and enhanced”. The shooting community and a suite of practical conservationists took a very different stance. Lindsay Waddell, veteran grousekeeper and former chairman of the National Gamekeepers’ Association, told ST that it is another sorry chapter “in the drip, drip, drip against the management of the uplands”.

Mr Waddell said the decision will almost certainly see all keepers losing their jobs. When that happens, he continued, predator control will end and “the density and diversity of wildlife will decline”. By way of evidence, he pointed to unmanaged grouse moors in Wales where wading birds such as lapwing and curlew are almost extinct. ST contacted United Utilities to ask whether, in spite of evidence that wildlife does well on grouse moors, they have pulled these leases because they’re caving to pressure from activists. We also asked what happens next in terms of management. They are yet to come back to us.

Peter Peder, who has run a grouse shoot on United Utilities’ land in Lancashire for 25 years, told ST that the news is very disappointing. They’ve not yet had anything in writing but it will mean that his gamekeeper is out of a job, which will mean one less family in the area. Mr Peder has been told that the new CEO of United Utilities is ‘anti-shooting’ and believes that she simply hasn’t listened to the concerns of local people.

The deputy director of communications at BASC, Garry Doolan, assured ST that as soon as the news broke, they started creating a plan to fight back and told us that they are in correspondence with local MPs. ST is looking forward to keeping a close eye on how biodiversity and habitat changes once the leases are up and the keepers are gone.