Top 10 victories for moorland wildlife in 2020

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 country’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 2020 — game-changing moves have come about which our supporters have helped to achieve.

From law-makers taking strides to introduce grouse moor licensing in Scotland to hare hunts being banned from swathes of the uplands, here are some of the year’s most exciting victories for moorland wildlife and ecosystems.

1. The nation turned against grouse shooting

2020 was the year the nation turned against grouse shooting after industry lobbyists arrogantly pressed the government to provide exemptions to public health measures to allow bloodsports to continue. This resulted in a debate during Prime Minister’s Questions, grouse shooting trending on Twitter, Google searches for grouse shooting reaching historic levels and widespread public discourse.

2. The Duchy departs from grouse shooting

Following the release of our ground-breaking investigation into bird of prey persecution on North Yorkshire’s iconic Goathland Moor, the Duchy of Lancaster, which manages the Queen’s land portfolio, committed to ending its grouse shooting lease. This followed high-profile national newspaper coverage of a rare goshawk being trapped and killed on camera.

The Duchy has since entered into a pioneering conservation scheme which will see the large moorland regenerated for wildlife and carbon storage.

3. Corporate landowners ban burning

Our corporate landowner campaign heated up with some of the UK’s largest landowners making a commitment to end heather burning on swathes of moorland leased for grouse shooting. Yorkshire Water, United Utilities and the National Trust, which together own 34 moors across Yorkshire, Lancashire and Derbyshire, implemented the decision from April.

4. Grouse shooting will be licensed in Scotland

This year was major for securing new regulation from policy-makers to kick-start the restoration of moorlands for wildlife, the environment and local communities.

In November, Scotland became the first country in the UK to require a license is obtained to operate a grouse moor — with new powers agreed to shut down shoots involved in wildlife crime and ecological damage. The decision by MSPs will make a huge difference, with pressure now building on England and Wales to follow on.

5. MPs and Councils join forces to ban burning

Yorkshire’s MPs took the battle to save the county’s peat moors from being damaged for grouse shooting to Westminster, with a heated debate resulting in renewed support from the government for a ban on burning. Following over 21,000 people signing our petition, 7 of the county’s council leaders added their voice to calls for legislation to be introduced without delay.

6. Hen harriers return to Wharfedale

Wildlife campaigners celebrated the conservation efforts of a leading landowner which have resulted in rare hen harriers roosting on its moor. By adopting nature-friendly moorland management techniques, NG Bailey reversed declines in birds of prey associated with persecution by its former grouse shooting tenant.

7. Moorland hare hunts landlocked

After months of detailed research, our campaign to end the illegal hunting of moorland hares with hounds scored a salvo of successes.

The largest corporate landowner in England, United Utilities, suspended hunting permits across 56,000 hectares of land in Cumbria, Derbyshire and Lancashire, following a meeting with BBYM. The decision locks out a number of high-profile hunts including the Holme & Colne Valley Beagles, Holcombe Harriers and Blencathra Foxhounds.

In another nail in the coffin for hare hunting, North Yorkshire’s Ampleforth College ended its long-term relationship with the Ampleforth Beagles after more than a century.

8. Fenn trapping ban comes into force

Recognising the cruelty inherent in leaving stoats to linger in bone-crushing contraptions, the government introduced new regulations in April which outlawed the use of fenn traps for killing native wildlife. The impact of the new rules have been clear with a considerable decrease in—and in some areas a complete end to—the use of spring traps of any kind for boosting grouse numbers for shooting.

9. Bird traps don’t fly with the regulator

Hot off the heels of wild bird traps being prohibited on many grouse moors due to incompatibility with habitat conservation laws, BBYM stepped up its efforts to ensure enforcement of rule-changes. More than 50 wild bird traps were removed by grouse shoots following us filing a report with Natural England.

10. Stop press! We held the headlines

BBYM has reached millions of people across the UK during 2020 with regular coverage of our campaigns in the national and regional press. This year we’ve featured in The Times, Guardian, Daily Mail, Independent, Channel 4 News, Sky News, BBC, Yorkshire Post and a host of other publications.

Get ready, we’re stepping up in 2021…

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.

In 2021, we’re stepping up our efforts by launching new campaigns and concepts to drive forward widespread change in the uplands. You can be a part of this. We are urging everyone to make 2021 the year for positive change.

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