A move which would leave Welsh farmers and conservationists ‘further restricted’ on their ability to control birds and pests has been slammed by farming organisations.
As of October 7, new general licences for the control of certain bird species will come into effect as an intermediary measure, before a call for evidence and a ‘rolling review’ from 2020 onwards.
But the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) said the new licences would introduce significant additional restrictions and ‘tie the hands’ of Natural Resources Wales (NRW) staff, who are seeking to protect rare species on Welsh Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).
FUW said NRW had changed the licences following a legal challenge in England by pressure group Wild Justice.
“But the new licences go far further than just making them legally watertight,” FUW land use committee chairman Tudur Parry said.
“In our view the review has been hijacked by those wishing to introduce additional and unnecessary restrictions which are unrelated to the risk of a legal challenge.”
Mr Parry said advice given by the FUW and others in regular meetings with NRW since February had ‘effectively been ignored’.
The new licence will no longer allow carrion crow, magpie, jackdaw, rook, jay, collared dove or wood pigeon to be controlled.
Mr Parry added: “Farmers will conclude from this decision that NRW is more interested in introducing ridiculous bureaucracy and restrictions for political reasons rather than protecting Wales’ wildlife and helping farmers protect their livestock and crops.”
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) Wales director Steve Griffiths said: “Only allowing the conservation of ‘red’ and ‘amber’ listed species is irresponsible and ill-advised, and is akin to waiting for the house to be on fire before acting.”
David Pooler, North Wales chairman of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, added: “NRW has run scared of a non-existent legal threat, rushing through a set of ill-considered and over precautionary licences that will stop people doing what they need to do and harm the very biodiversity that NRW is supposed to look after.”
NRW said its licensing system was robust and proportionate, ‘carefully balancing the needs of wildlife and people’.