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NRW under fire for recommending licensing scheme for release of pheasants and red-legged partridges

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has come under fire after recommending the Welsh Government implement a licensing scheme for the release of pheasants and red-legged partridges for the 2025/2026 season.

Countryside groups, shoot owners, and representatives of the hospitality trade warned that the plans risked devastating the Welsh rural economy, while negatively impacting conservation efforts.

NRW, a supposedly arms-length advisory quango to the Welsh Government, issued a 12-week consultation on 27 March outlining its intention to add pheasant and red legged partridge to schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, putting them on par with invasive non-native species.

In their report released on Wednesday, NRW state: “We advise the Welsh Ministers that common pheasant and red-legged partridge should be added to Part 1 of Schedule 9 to the Act and thereafter that any releases of these two species in Wales should be managed through a proportionate risk-based licensing framework.”

If the decision is taken by the Welsh Government to act on NRWs advice, the quango will move forward and develop a licensing approach that it claims “can be delivered effectively with the available resources.” Any licensing approach would be planned to come into force for the 2025/6 season. In September, NRW said that it would not be ‘achievable’ to bring in any changes in line with its original timeline- for the 2024/2025 season- given the sheer ‘volume’ of consultation responses received. 

In its response to the recommendation, the Alliance accused the quango of “ignoring” evidence submitted by thousands of rural stakeholders and warned the Welsh Government against “alienating the rural community” by accepting NRW’s advice. It also claimed the proposed scheme amounts to a ban on shooting through the back door.

Over 12,900 people signed and completed a Countryside Alliance e-campaign, which sent direct responses to NRW in response to the controversial consultation. Countryside Alliance Wales, alongside other shooting groups, also toured packed out village halls to drum up public opposition to the proposals.

Tim Bonner, the Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance said: “Sadly, it is no surprise that NRW has ploughed on with their recommendation to implement a licensing scheme for the release of pheasants and partridges, ignoring the evidence provided by tens of thousands of people from across Wales.

“It is clear that NRW has delivered for their political masters in the Welsh Government, who have always intended to impose unnecessary regulation on the sector which will have the potential to progressively restrict game shooting as we know it.

“A massive response from the Welsh public has delayed the proposals, but the potential impact on the conservation, communities and the economy of rural Wales remain.

“This is a blatant, prejudiced and completely unjustified attack on the rural way of life. The government in Cardiff is increasingly at odds with the countryside and it is at risk of further alienating the rural community. Ministers need to think very carefully about whether they accept NRW’s advice. We will be working with partners from across the rural sector to pursue every possible avenue and we will fight back against this attack on the rural way of life.”

The value of shooting in Wales is worth some £75million to the economy and provides the equivalent of 2,400 full time jobs. Shooting provides Wales with a 365 day a year tourism industry supporting village pubs, hotels and eateries in the quieter winter months when passing trade is bleak. 

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