Yorkshire’s councils are being urged to join the battle to save the county’s peat moors from being damaged for grouse shooting.

In a letter sent to council leaders, Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors has sought support from local authorities for a ban on moorland burning, an ecologically-destructive practice that involves shoot operators setting fire to heather to engineer habitat for grouse, which are shot for sport.

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

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.

“With burning performed on grouse moors across Yorkshire, we are calling for councils to show their support for a burning ban to help save the county’s peatlands from further damage.”

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, from October to April, Wild Moors compiled more than 550 reports of peat moorlands being burnt across the county.This is despite assurances given by grouse moors to the government that the practice would be halted, with 11 moors which had pledged to stop being discovered continuing.

On one occasion more than 200 hectares of rare blanket bog was damaged by a major blaze sparked on Meltham Moor when planned burning spiralled out of control.

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 adds:

“Too many moorlands have become grouse shooting theme parks, run by self-serving operators who focus on producing large numbers of game birds and ignore their duty to nature.Now is the time to significantly reform ecologically-restrictive, outdated grouse moors to restore the full suite of wildlife and habitats to our uplands.”

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Notes for editors:

  • Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s 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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