We are sure many of you are seriously concerned, and rightly so, about Natural England’s sudden and questionable decision to revoke three general licences, specifically those which permit much needed predator control. General licence (GL06) which allowed users to take or kill certain species of wild bird to conserve flora and fauna has now been replaced with 19-02.

The new licencing application process will fulfil the requirement to abide more closely to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. 

The previous system required only for the licence user to be satisfied that the reasons for control were needed, but the new system will ensure that Natural England can be satisfied that the reasons for the control are valid.  Ambiguity around this issue was the nature of the legal arguments brought against Natural England and their subsequent, sudden and ill-timed decision to change the system.

The timing of this decision, in the middle of the wild bird nesting season, when there is a vital need to be able to continue normal predator control to ensure the breeding success of many of our red-listed birds, will no doubt have an adverse effect on many of you, and an even more drastic effect on the small birds you have been so valiantly protecting.

Research commissioned by our Charity, and carried out by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), has shown that for farmland hedgerow-nesting songbirds, overall annual nest success can be from 10-16% lower in sites where no corvid control is undertaken.  Set against the 56% long-term decline in farmland bird populations since 1970, this an impressive result. 

Even more impressive results have been obtained elsewhere for vulnerable ground-nesting farm and upland birds such as the globally near threatened red-listed curlew - the bird of greatest conservation concern in the UK - the red-listed lapwing and the amber-listed meadow pipit amongst others.

Natural England’s precipitate blanket revocation of General Licences, taken without consultation with those most likely to be adversely affected - farmers, land-managers & other conservationists - has been condemned, rightly, by many commentators, in Parliament, in the media and by concerned nature-loving members of the general public.  The old adage of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’ applies here. 

Sadly, too late for that now, but important to mitigate, swiftly, the damage that this ill-considered action will impose upon vulnerable prey species the length and breadth of England, from the uplands, across the farmed landscape to the urban towns and cities where the bulk of our nature-starved population now live. 

The new process for the licencing system has now begun and you are able to apply for an individual licence to be able to control certain species of birds to conserve flora and fauna (19-02)

This can be done online at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/wild-birds-licence-to-control-certain-species  If you need a paper copy of a form call Natural England on 020 8026 1089.

The webpage explains the full detail of how the licences work, what methods of control are allowed and the circumstances in which they can be used.  Please ensure you read this carefully and abide by all of the conditions.

30th April 2019

Find out more about our research on magpies and other corvids here

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