The North York Moors National Park Authority has voiced concerns over the increased disruption being caused by the intensification of game bird shooting.
In a letter to Wild Moors, the national park’s Chief Executive, Andy Wilson, outlined fresh steps being taken to tackle the problem, which it says is disturbing visitors and local communities, degrading important habitat and resulting in obstruction of rights of way.
The national park has adopted a presumption against allowing new moorland tracks for grouse shooting, will not automatically renew its pheasant shooting lease at the Levisham Estate and will give serious consideration to producing a bird of prey persecution evidence report as part of its next management plan in 2020.
Luke Steele, Director of Wild Moors, welcomed the progress being made:
“The North York Moors National Park Authority has a considerable responsibility, as the custodian of one of the country’s leading conservation landscapes, to ensure habitats and the wild animals which make them home are protected and enhanced.
“Whilst the National Park Authority cannot end game bird shooting it can use its powers to rein in the growing environmental damage and disruption to communities caused by intensification of the practice, which it has rightly committed to doing by engaging with concerns. There is still work to be done, but these are important first steps.”
Bird of prey persecution in the national park is one of the long-standing problems associated with game bird shooting, with 18 incidents of raptor crime reported since 2005. This includes hen harriers, goshawks and buzzards being found shot, trapped and poisoned and satellite-tagged birds of prey ‘vanishing’ without a trace over grouse shooting moors.
Another cause of environmental damage is the large-scale release of non-native game birds into the countryside, with more than two million factory-farmed pheasants and an unknown number of partridges released in North Yorkshire in 2018, according to DEFRA records.
The North York Moors National Park Authority is the only national park authority in the country to lease land for game bird shooting and campaigners say that by ending the practice it will set a positive example for other landowners in the area to follow.
Andy Wilson, Chief Executive of the North York Moors National Park Authority, said:
“The issues surrounding shooting remain very much in the public mind: this is very clear from the continuing mix of letters, comments, phone calls and social media coverage which we receive in Helmsley and I pick up at Parish Forums and other local events.”