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Shooting community calls for more rights in public forests

Shooting organisations currently rent around 45,000 hectares of public woodland in England from the government body and feel their sport has not been given equal status with other recreational activities such as walking and cycling.

The move comes in response to the FC?s public consultation entitled The Study of the Forestry Commission Estate in England, which looks at the long-term role of public forests.

The consultation was launched on 6 July and ran until 28 September.

?BASC is urging the FC to promote and properly recognise the current and potential value of live quarry shooting as a recreational activity,? BASC?s head of gamekeeping, Tom Blades, said.

Mr Blades added: ?BASC believes there are double standards in the way in which different recreational activities are supported within the public forest. For example, activities such as mountain biking and walking enjoy the provision of extra cycle and footpaths at no cost to the user. On the other hand, shooters who are themselves recreational users of the public forest have to pay for the right to use the forest and in turn pay for the infrastructure that supports their sport.?

Mr Blades also pointed out sporting leases should not place excessive restraints on shooters: ?Given the economic and environmental benefits that can be obtained through shooting, it seems odd that some recent FC leases have included unnecessary restrictions on shooting. BASC would like this policy to be reviewed.?

Shooting statistics in public woods

The Countryside Alliance?s (CA) Tim Bonner concurred.

He said the FC?s complicated shooting leases can be off-putting: ?The CA is working towards the situation where shooting is licensed on FC and other Government land in a way that ensures public safety but allows the widest possible access to the hunting and shooting communities. We have been concerned that some of the licensing process has become so complex as to make hunting and shooting on some public land unworkable.?

Nigel Cox manages a small private shoot near Canterbury, in Kent, and rents 300 or so acres from the FC.

?I think the shooting organisations are right to press the FC on this issue. It is outrageous that shooting should be sidelined as a recreational activity on public land. It should be given the same status as other woodland sports. I have, however, always found the FC a pleasure to deal with when negotiating leases.?

An FC spokesman commented: ?The consultation attracted 2,170 responses and a further 2,292 answered a short questionnaire focused on woodland visitors. There is a lot of information and opinion to assess before we are ready to make recommendations to ministers.?

He added: ?Our current policy is to continue to lease shooting rights provided they are compatible with other priorities for a woodland, particularly public access. We already have more than 300 shooting leases on the England estate covering 45,000 hectares.?

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