Rachel Evans Director for Wales has met with Hannah Blythyn, Minister for Environment to highlight the various campaigns and rural issues the Countryside Alliance leads on in Wales.
The Alliance has a long-standing record of promoting your interests to both the National Assembly for Wales and the Welsh Government and is at the forefront of the challenges posed by animal rights activists from all over the world.
A wide-ranging conversation highlighted a number of our members’ concerns as well as the positive contribution of country pursuits to Wales in terms of economic, environmental and social benefit.
The Minister has direct responsibility for Natural Resources Wales and Rachel highlighted the recent review on the use of firearms which called for scientific evidence and fact. A second consultation by NRW was more of an opinion poll and called on the general public to respond. The Alliance reiterated to the Minister the importance of decisions being made on science and solid evidence rather than emotion. Rachel Evans highlighted a recent petition presented to the National Assembly on a wildlife management issue whereby only 37.8% of the signatories resided in Wales, the rest originating from countries as diverse as Canada, France and Israel.
Rachel Evans said “I have no doubt that the recent NRW consultation would have received signatures from animal rights groups from all over the world, with very little or no knowledge of shoot management. However, we urge Welsh Government not to lose sight of the initial evidence-based review on the use of firearms and to commend the evidence-based conclusions.”
On Access to the countryside, Rachel Evans questioned the Minister on an expected date for a Ministerial statement on the recent Taking Forward Wales consultation which is now expected sometime in July. Reiterating the Alliance’s position on access to land and water, Rachel Evans respectfully asked that Welsh Government refrain from any plans to increase access at the present time so as not to put landowners and riparian owners in Wales at a severe disadvantage while at Westminster plans for a future agricultural policy are to include access as part of the delivery of public good.
Rachel Evans said “We have heard that an overarching agricultural policy will include the delivery of public good and access to the countryside has been much talked about at Westminster. A rushed through policy on increasing access in Wales prior to the exit from the European Union can only mean that Welsh farmers and riparian owners would be placed in an unfair negotiating position.
I think that when this is opened up to the sector we will see some very diverse and exciting opportunities developed to increase access to land and water, we really cannot put Wales on the back foot in such important times.”
Angling in Wales is facing tough times, the Alliance is not entirely convinced that the recent decision by Natural Resources Wales to impose mandatory catch and release on salmon in 2019 is going to be effective as a standalone measure to increase salmon stocks, and reiterated that message to the Minister. The ruling targets only the anglers and some quite rightly feel victimised. The Alliance felt strongly that this measure should be part of a package and repeated our call for predator control of the fish eating birds to be widely accepted and granted by NRW, and for pollution incidents to be taken far more seriously by the regulatory body than they have been to date.
Rachel Evans also discussed the urgent need to conserve the Curlew and noted the ever pressing requirement for predator control, as accepted by all serious conservationists. Fox, badger and crow are much to blame for the decrease in curlew numbers in Wales and indeed the rest of the UK, and whilst electric fencing can in some cases help prevent nest predation from the ground, we then see increased predation by crows from the air. Rachel championed recent Grouse Moor projects in Wales which had seen an increase in the number of curlews present in the uplands and stressed that more needs to be done to champion our gamekeepers for their conservation work which goes hand in hand with good shoot management.
There are a host of Ministerial and Assembly Members’ meetings to come in the next few weeks covering a plethora of subjects as we continue to lead in the promotion and protection of your interests in Cardiff Bay.