Burning blanket bog is set to be ended on Northern England’s moors under new legislation being prepared by the government.
Zac Goldsmith MP, Minister of State (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs), announced the decision to legislate to stop the environmentally-damaging practice — widely used by grouse moors to engineer optimal game bird breeding habitat — in Westminster last night.
Moorland burning has been established by environmental scientists, including a research team at the University of Leeds, as degrading sensitive peatland habitat, depleting carbon stores, contributing to climate change and increasing flood risk in valleys below grouse moors.
Blanket bog also serves as a vital breeding habitat for threatened moorland birds such as amber-listed dunlin.
Luke Steele, Director of Wild Moors, said:
“We welcome the Minister’s announcement that burning blanket bog will finally be ended following years of campaigning and investigations into the environmental destruction caused by the practice.
“With over 80% of Yorkshire’s peatlands damaged to the point of disaster a blanket bog burning ban cannot be brought into place soon enough.”
The government’s decision to eliminate burning blanket bog follows grouse shooting estates failing to adhere to a voluntary moratorium agreed with DEFRA in 2018.
Moorland monitors have since documented heather burning continuing on upland estates across North and West Yorkshire.In one dramatic example in February fire brigades were called to Askwith Moor, near Otley, when flames set by gamekeepers got out of control. Large plumes of smoke could be seen in the area and driving conditions were made difficult on a nearby highway.
Gamekeepers on Stanbury Moor, near Haworth, were also documented in February setting fire to a large section of blanket bog moorland which is leased from Yorkshire Water for grouse shooting. Walshaw Moor Estate, which is the tenant, has long been at the centre of controversy over its damage to sensitive habitats.
Luke Steele adds:
“Burning on grouse shooting estates is extremely harmful to both wildlife and the environment and disrupts otherwise peaceful life in local communities, which are impacted by smoke pollution and increased flood risk.”
Campaigners have vowed to continue monitoring burning on grouse moors across the region until legislation comes into place.
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