By now you will have heard that Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has decided to further restrict the ability of farmers and conservationists to control birds which are damaging crops or livestock, spreading disease or causing harm to species of conservation concern.

New General Licences for the control of certain bird species will come into effect this week, introducing significant additional restrictions, compared with the current licence - and they even tie the hands of NRW staff seeking to protect rare species on Welsh Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).

What we take from this is that NRW is running scared following a legal challenge earlier in the year in England from pressure-group Wild Justice. Yet, no such legal challenge has been made in Wales.

It was certainly right of NRW to have reviewed the current legislation in light of what happened in England, but the new licences go far further than just making them legally watertight - in our view the review has been hijacked by those wishing to introduce additional and unnecessary restrictions which are unrelated to the risk of a legal challenge.

The advice given by the FUW and others with an interest in farming and conservation in regular meetings with NRW since February has effectively been ignored. This means that the new rules will prevent or restrict important conservation work as well as preventing farmers from protecting their crops and livestock.

Indeed, they have even added an extra layer of restrictions close to SSSIs, many of which will now be more vulnerable to attacks by certain bird species.

The new general licences will not apply in, or within 300 metres of 203 Welsh SSSIs, meaning the actions of NRW, farmers and conservationists in and around these areas will be further restricted, even though controlling certain bird species such as crows and magpies is essential for protecting livestock and ground-nesting birds.

Farmers will conclude from this decision that NRW is more interested in introducing ridiculous bureaucracy and restrictions for political reasons rather than protecting Wales’ wildlife and helping farmers protect their livestock and crops. An absolute outrage in our opinion.