An invasion of Wales is underway. Large companies, many of them based in London, are buying up land to use carbon credits. It has doubled the price of agricultural land in Wales, in the last year.
The Countryside Alliance says the Welsh Government is allowing rewilding and the planting of thousands of trees on a huge scale.
Rachel Evans of Countryside Alliance Wales says it is morally unacceptable that the government has banned shooting on its land but is offering funding to companies buying up land for carbon offsetting.
She believes the public won’t support the idea either. She says: “By losing this land, we risk food security. We are also reducing the amount of shooting in Wales. It’s inevitable and it’s ironic that Welsh Government does not want to admit to the value of shooting in terms of conservation, land management, and carbon sequestration. Yet, they are prepared to allow this to happen, to allow people to come into Wales pilfering our land in order to offset their dirty emissions.”
It’s a green rush driven by green washing. Rachel says the government probably don’t take into consideration that shooting in Wales may be lost because of rewilding projects. She says: “They probably want to just turn a blind eye to that. But what we must do as a shooting community is highlight all these things that are going on in the countryside, highlight this mass rewilding, this mas tree planting in order to save shooting.”
Shooter and farmer Eddie Field says the three farms next to his land in Carmarthenshire in South Wales have sold in the last 12 months for rewilding. It means almost 500 acres around him will be planted with trees.
Eddie says the government isn’t concerned about the damage to field sports caused by the rewilding and tree planting. He says: “The government does not care. In Wales, they hate it. They are proving that.
“They are proving that they want to rid the countryside of field sports. There’s nothing that can be done, absolutely nothing, unless this government leaves and they start realising that we need the countryside, we need farming for this country to survive.”
Eddie says farmers and shooters have been protecting the countryside for hundreds of years. He says: “We’ve been doing it well. Why stop it? Why destroy a good thing? Something that’s perfectly balanced in the countryside.
“Everything we’re doing is helping every aspect of it Farming, feeding the people, maintaining the land, which looks after the animals.”
Part of the reason is government grants and tax breaks. In some places in the UK, landowners can plant trees and walk away with £1,000 a hectare in profit. 1,000 hectares of forestry can earn you £1 million, and you get an asset from the timber in the distant future.
Farmer and shooter Gareth Wyn Jones says farming and fieldsports deliver better benefits for climate change than rewilding. Gareth says he doesn’t agree with the government giving tax incentives for rewilding. He says: “I don’t believe in greenwashing and offsetting carbon. I know for a fact that this green grass is sequestering more carbon than trees. When you plant a tree it won’t start sequestering for ten years, and it doesn’t finish sequestering till the end of its lifetime and that’s ridiculous in my opinion.”
He wants a dialogue about develop ways to protect the countryside in Wales.
Eddie is a champion angler and used to fish for the England team as a teenager. He says that rewilding will affect stocks of salmon and trout in Welsh rivers. Eddie says when conifer forests are planted the ground becomes acidic and the runoff goes into local rivers and tributaries where the salmon spawn. He says if the ph. levels are changed the fish won’t be able to survive.
He says: “They won’t survive and that’s the end. The end of the salmon in some of the most famous rivers for in Wales. If the salmon can’t come up these rivers, which they’ve been doing for thousands of years, the same rivers that they were born into what’s left? If they can’t reproduce then they die off.”
The Countryside Alliance in Wales says the government needs to look at the wider impact of rewilding on the rural community.
Rachel says: “We need to look at the bigger picture, including heritage, culture and losing Welsh language. Those are the things that make governments twitch a little.”
She says the shooting community need to send a message to the government that it’s not just about Fieldsports.
Gareth fears if the government doesn’t listen to the fieldsports community the damage of planting thousands of trees will be irreversible as the land is unlikely to be farmed again. Gareth says he wants the government to stop supporting the green washing. He says: “Stop it before the damage is done and before we go hungry. This land is here for a purpose. We’ve managed this land and we’ve made sure we’ve been able to feed the nation on it. You lose that and you are going to go hungry.”
Rachel says: “It does stick in your throat when you see all this great work for conservation going on through shooting in Wales. Yet we have a government that simply do not want to acknowledge this. I’m not saying they don’t know that shooting is hugely beneficial to improving about adversity and so on, but they just don’t want to acknowledge it and want to give any credit for it.”
Rachel says it’s hypocritical that politicians are willing for carbon credits to be sold, losing valuable land in Wales that has been growing food for generations.
Eddie says: “Truly one of the saddest things is that the farm that is on the border to us will never be farmed again. It can’t happen once this planted, that ground can never be used for anything else for generations. It is going to be the death of that farm.”
Eddie says it’s a tragedy that it will be owned by a company that has never probably even seen it and doesn’t care about it, apart from the money that it can make them and offsetting their carbon footprint.
The trend for planting trees and allowing carbon offset is happening across the UK thanks to vast grants and favourable tax benefits. Some fear that if the government doesn’t heed their warnings that the benefits of shooting for the economy and wellbeing will be eroded.