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Shooters play a pivotal role as ‘custodians’ says Defra

At the Northern Gamekeepers’ Conference the Environment Secretary recognises the importance of shooting to conservation and protection.

Defra Secretary Steve Barclay acknowledged the role shooters play in conserving and protecting the countryside at the inaugural Northern Gamekeepers’ Conference, hosted by BASC. 

Speaking at the conference, held in the historic grounds of the Swinton Estate in Masham, North Yorkshire, Mr Barclay said: “BASC members have a pivotal role to play as custodians of the countryside and some of our most cherished landscapes. 

“We know how important it is to provide the right data and evidence to create a sustainable shooting sector. I look forward to continuing to work closely with stakeholders to develop policies which create a sustainable and prosperous industry while protecting the natural environment.” 

The main hall at the Swinton Park Hotel was standing room only as gamekeepers from across the north of England gathered to hear a range of expert speakers and put their questions to Mr Barclay on rural topics from GL43 to the role of Natural England. 

BASC’s chief executive Ian Bell said: “We’re grateful to the Secretary of State for coming to Swinton to speak directly to our members — a clear demonstration of his support for our community. There are a number of challenges we are facing with regards to how we are being controlled and restricted, and many of those in attendance are impacted by the decisions regarding GL43 and releasing on protected sites. 

“It would be fair to say these feelings were made clear to the Secretary of State. We will continue to use the direct link we have to his office to lobby on behalf of our members to protect the way of life we all hold so dear.” 

Disappointingly, Mr Barclay was unable to divulge the critical final details of pheasant and red-legged partridge release licensing on or near Special Protection Areas. This information had previously been expected to be shared with stakeholders by the end of February. Mr Barclay had indicated in his previous update that “mid-March” was the target publishing date, but that timeline has passed. 

With a general election later in the year, most polls, bookmakers and Westminster insiders suggest Labour is on course for a seismic victory. In the coming months, lobbying groups for rural causes will also be looking to build relationships with the Labour government — and specifically shadow Defra Secretary Steve Reed.