Dramatic images have been released by a wildlife protection organisation showing the devastating impact of a major fire on Meltham Moor (available here).

Wild Moors published the video footage and photographs — showing more than 200 hectares of damaged rare blanket bog habitat — following planned grouse moor burning getting out of control on Monday.

Burning had been performed on the moor managed by the Meltham Shooting Club to remove old heather and promote younger, more nutritious shoots for the grouse, which are then shot for sport.

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service criticised landowners after 20 engines and 100 firefighters had to respond and ordered grouse moors in the area to stop burning “with immediate effect.”

Luke Steele, Director of Wild Moors, said:

“Grouse moors across Yorkshire have continued starting large fires to engineer game bird breeding habitat, despite having fully assured the government that they would end the environmentally-harmful practice.

“It is incredibly sad to see the damage caused by out-of-control burning to breeding habitat for curlew, golden plover and dunlin, which couldn’t have come at a worse time for these threatened birds as nesting season has got well underway.

“Had the Meltham Shooting Club honoured its pledge to the government to not burn over blanket bog then this devastating fire would have never happened.”

The Meltham Shooting Club is one of the grouse moors which signed a voluntary agreement with the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in 2018 to end burning over threatened blanket bog.

Lord Zac Goldsmith, the Environment Minister, has since announced that the government will introduce legislation to outlaw the practice after acknowledging the voluntary agreement had failed to deliver the desired outcome.

The Committee on Climate Change, which advises the government on environmental issues, has recommended a grouse moor burning ban is introduced within the year.

It follows research by the University of Leeds and others showing the practice harms peatland habitat, releases climate-altering gasses into the atmosphere, reduces biodiversity and increases the risk of wildfire and flooding.

Yorkshire Water and the National Trust, which own moorland bordering Meltham Moor, some of which was damaged when the fire spilled over the boundaries, have already banned the practice.

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