GOOD GROUSE FORECAST
Knock-on benefits to local economy and conservation hailed
AS the ‘glorious twelfth’ looms, the £67 million pound English grouse shooting industry is hailed for far-reaching contributions to conservation and the economy.
Predicting a good season, owners of globally recognised heather moorland say without shooting income, vital ecosystems – and over 1,500 jobs – would be lost.
While serious wildlife and habitat declines were highlighted in State ofNature, an unprecedentedUKstock-take, The Moorland Association (MA) reports continuing gains from its land management.
The year-round battle to safeguard 850,000 acres of iconic heather moorland, a haven for many rare and endangered species, has had top-level recognition.
Dr Mark Reed, lead investigator for the government-backed Sustainable Uplands Project, said it was heartening to see continuing commitment to unique land, and its remarkable fauna and flora.
Cumbrian-based MA chairman, Robert Benson, explained while many birds found themselves in serious difficulties, some of the country’s most threatened species were doing well on grouse moors.
“State of Naturepainted a gloomy picture, but we are delighted to be bucking national trends with some notable successes,” he added.
“We have 75 per cent of the world’s remaining heather moorland here in theUK. Endangered lapwing, curlew, golden plover, ring ouzel, merlin, black grouse and grey partridge all fare far better on moorland with gamekeepers.
Mr Benson said MA members spend a staggering £52.5 million a year managing grouse moors, resulting in around 700 full-time jobs and a further 800-plus directly linked to the industry.
He added: “Luckily, conditions for wild red grouse have been much better this year in most areas, after weather blighted the two previous breeding seasons.
“We are hopefully looking at a good season for most, helping to recoup costs.
“Shooting creates 42,500 days of work a year. With the prospects of a better season ahead, associated spin-offs will be in excess of £15 million, essential earnings in these challenging economic times.
“So many people benefit, from the food industry to hoteliers, clothing manufacturers to dry stone wallers, the list is endless.”
Dr Reed praised the support to local communities, adding active management of uplands was also essential to retain internationally important heather moorland habitats and species.
"Without management for grouse and livestock, many moors would revert to scrub and forest,” he said. “Moorland plants, animals and precious landscapes that attract millions of visitors a year would be lost.”
He also said the severe impact of climate change on wildlife was mitigated by grouse moor estates restoring blanket bog habitats, damaged by wildfires, over-grazing and historic drainage.
Shooting days can be held from August 12 until December 10 excluding Sundays, but only the surplus population is shot ensuring a healthy wild breeding stock is left for the following year.
“Shooting usually stops well before the official end of the season, but every day is a bonus for the local economy,” said Robert Benson.
“Despite the success of the breeding season, only a handful of those letting days on a commercial basis will break even due to the great costs involved in managing the moor.”
… ends …
Notes to Editors: Robert Benson will be available for interviews on August 8, 9, 14 and 15.
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Free to use high resolution images and fact files on grouse moor management can be found on: http://www.moorlandassociation.org/august12th2013.asp