Three new general licences to control wild birds in England have been issued today to help farmers prevent serious damage to livestock and crops.
Defra’s recent call for evidence demonstrated a range of impacts that farmers experienced as a result of the revocation of licences GL04, 05 and 06 in April.
This included crow attacks on lambs and ewes during lambing, the risk of predation for eggs and fledglings of birds of conservation concern.
The decision to issue the new licences (GL34, 35, 36) follows information provided to Defra’s evidence-gathering exercise.
Concerned farmers explained the impact that Natural England’s withdrawal of its three general licences had on the management of wild birds.
The statutory agency revoked the licences following a legal challenge by conservation group Wild Justice. It concluded that the three licences were unlawful.
After uproar from the rural community, Defra launched the consultation. This closed on Monday 13 May, with over 4,000 responses submitted.
The new licences will be valid until 29 February 2020, and will not apply to European protected sites.
In the meantime, Defra will lead a review of the longer-term general licensing arrangements.
The department intends to launch an initial public consultation by the end of the summer, with further details to be unveiled.
‘Scale of concern’
Defra Secretary Michael Gove said there was a ‘scale of concern’ generated by Natural England’s decision to revoke three general licences.
“The three new general licences announced today seek to minimise some of the negative impacts that the withdrawal of the previous licences had.
“But this is a temporary way forward and does not cover European protected sites, where the law is more complicated and we continue to engage with stakeholders.”
He added: “We will shortly set out details of a wider review of general licences, to provide a long term licensing solution which balances the needs of users and wildlife.”
Beyond these, Natural England recently issued three general licences GL26, GL28 and GL31 to cover some of the species and purposes covered by the original licences that were revoked.
These remain in place, since they allow for specified activity on European protected sites which are not covered by Defra’s new licences.
Meanwhile, Wild Justice has launched a fresh legal challenge against general licence GL26.
Defra’s new general licences
General licence to kill or take certain species of wild birds to conserve wild birds and flora or fauna (GL34)
Species covered: Carrion Crow, jackdaw, jay, magpie, rook, Canada goose, Egyptian goose, monk parakeet, ring-necked parakeet, sacred ibis and Indian house-crow
General licence to kill or take certain species of wild birds to preserve public health or public safety (GL35)
Species covered: Carrion crow, jackdaw, magpie, feral pigeon, rook, Canada goose and monk parakeet
General licence to kill or take certain species of wild birds to prevent serious damage to livestock, foodstuffs for livestock, crops, vegetables, fruit, growing timber, fisheries or inland waters (GL36)
Species covered: Carrion crow, jackdaw, magpie, feral pigeon, rook, woodpigeon, Canada goose, Egyptian goose, monk parakeet and ring-necked parakeet