Anyone who has picked up a newspaper this year can’t have failed to notice that when it comes to protecting the environment, the times are a-changin’.
As realisation dawns on decision-makers that our county’s degraded uplands must be restored, Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors has found growing momentum is on our side. Week in, week out we achieve positive changes to free up spaces for wildlife and habitat conservation from exploitation for grouse shooting.
It’s fair to say that no year has seen as much progress made as 2019 — game-changing moves have come about which our supporters have helped to achieve.
From corporate landowners making strides towards ending shooting leases to harmful components of grouse moor management being removed from gamekeepers’ toolkits, here are some of the year’s most exciting victories for moorland wildlife and ecosystems.
1. Yorkshire Water tightened up the rules on grouse shooting
Following intensive campaigning, Yorkshire Water – the county’s largest landowner – has placed each of its 11 grouse shooting leases under review to decide their future and cut the lifeline given to grouse shooting by banning heather burning, cracking down on wildlife crime and vowing to restore the uplands.
The ground-breaking move paves the way for other corporate landowners to follow suit.
2. NG Bailey ended its grouse shooting lease
NG Bailey, one of the country’s leading civil engineering companies, ended grouse shooting on Denton Moor in Wharfedale, which forms part of its headquarters estate. The move followed a spate of wildlife crime now brought to an end — resulting in conviction of the tenant’s gamekeeper using evidence of badger persecution secured by moorland monitors.
3. Moorland monitoring goes mainstream
Over 40 moorland monitors have been trained up since spring to detect, document and deter wildlife persecution and environmental damage in the uplands — with four affiliated moorland monitoring groups freshly-launched in Airedale, Calderdale, Nidderdale and the North York Moors.
That’s great news with more people than ever before keeping a watchful eye on the county’s grouse moors to protect wildlife and habitats.
4. Burning damped down by Environment Minister’s pledge
Acknowledging that heather burning causes environmental devastation, the Environment Minister, Zac Goldsmith, announced that the government is preparing legislation to stop shooting estates setting fire to the uplands to boost game bird numbers — a practice that was described as destroying “the Amazon of the UK” by a leading researcher at the University of Leeds.
5. Moorland road-building goes nowhere
North York Moors National Park Authority became the first national park to adopt a position against allowing ecologically-damaging roads to be constructed over conservation landscapes for grouse and pheasant shooting.
This precedent-setting stance will surely inspire other national parks to put the brakes on moorland highways to protect the uplands.
Community campaigners in Calderdale also defeated controversial plans for a new grouse shooting highway across unblemished blanket bog on the Walshaw Moor Estate.
6. Hare hunting took a blow
The Claro Beagles and Stokesley Farmers Beagles both announced to supporters that they wouldn’t seek to continue into another hunting season and were ceasing operations — effectively marking the end of hare hunting on moorland in Nidderdale and other parts of the county.
Moorland monitors have since prompted the Ampleforth Beagles and Holme & Colne Valley Beagles to abandon hare hunting meets through a visual presence and secured commitments from landowners to remove access permissions for beagling.
7. General licences struck down by legal challenge
In a landmark decision that has spared the lives of tens of thousands of native wild birds, Natural England withdrew general licences for routine trapping and killing of jackdaws, crows and magpies by gamekeepers following a legal challenge by Wild Justice.
8. Spring trapping had its final year
Recognising the cruelty inherent in leaving wildlife to linger in bone-crushing contraptions, the government introduced regulations outlawing the use of spring traps for catching stoats on grouse and pheasant shooting estates. The new law takes effect in April.
9. Grouse moors became unviable for investors
For the second year running, grouse moors have failed to breed enough birds to sustain commercial shooting, with many high-profile estates across Yorkshire and further afield abandoning the grouse shooting season altogether or running significantly downscaled programmes.
Investors are growing weary and could decide to take their money elsewhere amid the unviability and increased scrutiny of grouse moors, the game shooting industry has warned.
10. We’re doubling down on our efforts to end grouse shooting
We’ve made a pledge to be results-driven and guided by empirical research, which means we place resources in the areas where they will be most effective. This ethos has helped us, with the backing of supporters, make significant changes to the landscape surrounding grouse shooting in the short time we have been operating.
Why not end the year with one final good deed by donating to help grow our undercover investigations on grouse shooting moors? With your help, we can go into 2020 stronger and more effective than ever before.