Conservation at Work

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10th December 2018

Rural upland businesses and communities across the north of England have been counting the cost of a poor grouse shooting season and a financial loss that runs into millions of pounds.

Over the course of the four-month season which finishes today, an estimated 70% of shoot days were cancelled. Recent survey data indicates the financial impact of these cancellations is approximately £11m, a substantial direct loss for rural businesses and those who live and work in remote upland communities.

While the much-reduced shoot programme was a blow for country sports lovers, the real impact was felt by local businesses who rely on vital grouse shooting income, especially in the shoulder months of the tourist season. Hotels, pubs, restaurants, game dealers, contractors and other ancillary businesses have lost much-needed revenue due to the lack of grouse shooting customers.

The poor season was caused by low red grouse numbers; only when there is a healthy surplus of grouse can they be harvested for shooting. Red grouse are wild birds and cannot be reared; as such they are at the mercy of mother nature. The intense cold in February brought by the Beast from East followed by a prolonged drought impacted the growth of heather, the red grouse’s principal food source, resulted in a shortage of birds.

Despite the poor season, English grouse moor owners continue to invest over £50m of private money annually into the conservation and enhancement of upland landscapes. This ongoing conservation work on moorland across England, including peatland restoration initiatives, predator control and habitat management, is producing positive results for a range of upland species despite the substantial fall in income for estates with sporting interests.

Amanda Anderson, Director of the Moorland Association said: “2018 has been a disappointing year for most of the grouse shooting community in England where overall 70% of shoot days were cancelled due to low red grouse numbers. The knock on negative economic impact has been significant and rural businesses have really felt the hit.”

“The good news is that despite the poor season, grouse estates across the country continue to invest heavily in the conservation of the moorlands benefiting a wide range of flora and fauna, including vulnerable ground nesting birds such as the curlew, merlin, lapwing, ring ouzel and red grouse.”


Did You Know?

75% of of the world’s remaining heather moorland is found in Britain – but this area declined alarmingly over the latter part of the last century. The Moorland Association was set up in 1986 to coordinate the efforts of moorland owners and managers to halt this loss, particularly in England and Wales.

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