Calderdale Council’s leadership has backed a ban on heather burning to save the region’s peat moors from being damaged for grouse shooting.

In a motion unanimously passed by the Labour Group on Monday night, councillors agreed that the environmentally-damaging practice, which is performed by shoot operators to engineer breeding habitat for red grouse, must end in the Calder Valley.

It follows a voluntary approach to halting burning not proving successful, with grouse moors in the valley continuing to set large fires on rare blanket bog during the last burning season, which ran from October to April.

The decision comes just weeks ahead of the grouse shooting season opening on the ‘Glorious Twelfth’ of August, although burning does not start again until the Autumn. Campaigners believe any future burning can be stopped by government intervention, with Defra having already committed to introducing legislation.

Cllr Scott Patient, Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Environment at Calderdale Council, said:

“In Calderdale we know that the burning of valuable moorland has a broad range of ecological impacts including degrading peatlands, releasing harmful gasses into the atmosphere, putting added pressure on our fire services and decreasing biodiversity whilst possibly contributing to flooding in communities downstream.

“There has been an attempt, through voluntary initiatives, to scale back—to reduce and eventually eliminate—the burning of fragile and important peat ecosystems, but that has not proven 100% successful as had been hoped.

“The Council’s Leading Group welcomes the Government’s decision to legislate to end burning because the alternative approach of voluntary agreements simply has not worked. With the clock counting down to the next burning season opening in October, we hope to see legislation introduced promptly.”

Almost three quarters of peatlands in England are damaged or degraded, Natural England has revealed, with burning being a key driver.

During the last burning season, Wild Moors, which monitors ecological damage on grouse moors, compiled more than 550 reports of peatlands being burnt by shoot operators across the county.

Subsequently, the Committee on Climate Change, which advises the government on environmental action, recommended the practice be banned to protect peatlands from further damage.

Luke Steele, Director of Wild Moors, said:

“It’s past time to put an end to the burning of rare peatlands for grouse shooting — a practice which degrades fragile ecosystems, releases climate-altering gasses into the atmosphere and worsens flooding in communities downstream from grouse moors like those in the Calder Valley.

“With burning continuing on grouse moors in the valley, we commend Calderdale Council’s Leadership for giving its support for a burning ban to help save the region’s peatlands from further damage.”

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Notes for editors:

  • Wild Moors campaigns to free up moorland for conservation from exploitation for grouse shooting. By working with society, companies and government to create change, we secure effective protection for wildlife, habitats and local communities.
  • Research by the University of Leeds and others has found that grouse moor burning degrades peatland habitat, reduces biodiversity and increases flood risk.
  • Broadcast quality footage and print quality photographs of burning from the most recent season are available to download here, with full permission granted for re-publication.

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