Gamekeepers play an integral role in conservation efforts, according to a new report by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT).
In a joint survey held by the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO) and the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA), nearly 1,000 gamekeepers undertake vital conservation work through the management of more than 1,625,000 hectares of land across England.
This equates to around 65 per cent of land classified under conservation sites, such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs).
Prof Nick Sotherton, director of research with the GWCT said: “Without their extensive skills, knowledge and contribution to conservation in the UK, wildlife and landscapes would be much poorer.”
The survey found gamekeepers plant an average of 47.3ha of trees and manage ancient woodlands, which helps to preserve wildlife and reduce the impact of climate change, alongside privately funding more than £2.2 million worth of wild bird cover to benefit a host of red listed bird species.
Liam Bell, chairman of the NGO also praised the green efforts of gamekeepers and claimed the investment into these habitats was ‘staggering’.
The re-wetting of moorland landscapes was also highlighted in the report, identifying 38 per cent of gamekeepers had undertaken the process, which helps to improve river quality and reduce the risk of flooding.
Mr Bell claimed the work of gamekeepers was ‘not fully appreciated’ and welcomed the report for highlighting their efforts, saying: “Without their…knowledge, skills and love for their individual patches of land, our countryside and wildlife would be in a much more precarious position.”
SGA chairman Alex Hogg added: “These skilled land managers are at the vanguard of what is positive and progressive in our landscapes every day.”