CONTENTIOUS grouse-shooting leases which campaigners say have ‘eradicated wildlife’ in some Barnsley beauty spots could be banned as part of a review revealed by landowner Yorkshire Water.( Instead of automatically renewing the leases for shooting, Yorkshire Water which is the county’s largest landowner will instead review each one to decide if shooting will be allowed to continue.

Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors and the League Against Cruel Sports, whose members have been campaigning in a bid to secure a blanket ban on shooting at Range Moor, Langsett, and Wessenden Head and Digley on the West Yorkshire border, welcomed the decision this week.

Spokesman Luke Steele said: “The announcement is in direct response to our campaign.

“We strongly welcome Yorkshire Water tightening up the rules on grouse shooting following wildlife persecution and environmental damage on some of the county’s most treasured moorlands.( “Customer pressure combined with evidence captured by moorland monitors on Yorkshire Water’s land has focused the company’s mind on making urgent changes to conserve wildlife, habitat and benefit local communities.( “While this isn’t yet the end of grouse-shooting and the problems the practice brings, the ball has moved one significant step closer to that goal.”( Under the new arrangements being implemented by Yorkshire Water, stricter contractual obligations will be placed on grouse-shooting tenants in the interim ahead of a full, site-by-site review amid claims that protected species had been caught in the crossfire.

Campaigners say bone-breaking traps have been found on Range Moor which they say have been set to ensure natural predators are killed in order for game birds’ numbers to grow while ring ouzel, hen harrier, short-eared owl and dunlin are no longer present at the site.

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As part of the changes, heather burning will also be ended in line with scientific evidence demonstrating the practice which is used to engineer game bird breeding habitat degrades peatland, contributes to flooding, pollutes catchment water and drives out sensitive breeding birds.

Existing tenants will also be required to restore vast swathes of peatland degraded through harmful game bird management practices, such as burning, which risk conservation designations of the sites.

A spokesman for Yorkshire Water said the utilities company takes its environmental responsibility ‘very seriously’.

They added: “We of course understand that leasing land for shooting can be seen as controversial.

“Before re-letting the sporting rights we have committed to reviewing all the activity on our land in the area and to look at all options for its future management.

“Our aim is to ensure that we deliver the best outcome possible for the land, with a particular focus on our primary aims of protecting water quality, preventing flooding and combating climate change.

“When an existing shooting lease comes up for renewal, we will undertake a thorough review to assess the best option to deliver the required land management for the future.

“There are a range of potential options that we might consider, and we’ll work with partners to understand what these might be and to establish sound data and evidence that is scientifically accepted.

“We will be transparent about what our assessments show and how we make decisions about the future of land management.”(
Andy Knott, chief executive officer at the League Against Cruel Sports, added: “Yorkshire Water should be commended for taking this first big step in ensuring the impact of shooting is minimised, but we will continue our campaign to urge the company, and other landowners, to stop shooting for ‘sport’ for good.”