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Grouse shooting boosts nature and the rural economy

Excellent article from today's Times.

The coronavirus pandemic has devastated communities across Britain, particularly those reliant on seasonal tourism. Businesses in rural upland areas such as the North Yorkshire Moors and the Peak District have been brought to their knees. However, a study by researchers from the University of Northampton has revealed a vital lifeline that is helping to keep some of these communities afloat, even in the coronavirus storm.

The study examined the impact of integrated moorland management practices, including those that benefit grouse, in upland communities. It found that grouse shooting forms part of a “complex web” of economic and social factors that allows some moorland communities to not only survive but thrive in these difficult times.

There are many people who disparage grouse shooting and the moorland management practices that have been carried out for hundreds of years. Heather burning encourages new heather shoots, as well as creating a varied moorland habitat that benefits many rare species of ground-nesting birds. It also helps to prevent wildfires — which, as we saw in the early summer, are capable of destroying vast tracts of vegetation, peatlands and animal habitats. The most serious wildfires in recent years, such as at Saddleworth, have all taken place on moorland that is not managed for grouse.

In the week of the Glorious Twelfth anti-shooting campaigners will argue that this is all propaganda, that the scientific studies showing the benefits of moorland management are lies, that heather moors are better off left to fend for themselves, and that the only people who benefit from grouse shooting are “rich landowners”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The social and economic benefits of moors being managed for grouse shooting spread deep into upland communities, far beyond the landowners and estate workers.

As well as supporting the wages of gamekeepers, beaters and publicans, estates managed for grouse shooting rely on a host of local contractors, sporting agents, lawyers and other workers to facilitate the sport. One grouse moor owner estimated that only about 10 percent of the £800,000 he spends annually goes on gamekeepers’ salaries, with the rest paying for the upkeep of the moor.

This research confirms what many living in our uplands already knew, but under the spectre of Covid-19 and increasing activism it has never been more important for policymakers to stand up for grouse shooting and our moorland communities.


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