Three major landowners have ended heather burning on moorland across Northern England in a landmark move welcomed by wildlife campaigners.

Yorkshire WaterUnited Utilities and the National Trust — which collectively own 34 sections of moorland spanning Yorkshire, Lancashire and Derbyshire — enforced the decision last week by asking tenants to halt the practice until further notice.

Burning had been performed to remove older heather and promote younger, more nutritious shoots for grouse, which are then shot for sport.

The significant step forward compliments permanent positions against grouse moor burning adopted by each of the three landowners following lobbying by Wild Moors and the League Against Cruel Sports.

Luke Steele, Director of Wild Moors, said:

“Yorkshire Water, United Utilities and the National Trust are to be commended for ending routine burning of moorland by grouse shooting tenants in a landmark move which opens up vast swathes of peatland across Northern England for restoration.

“On top of driving vulnerable wildlife from its moorland home, burning on sensitive peatland degrades ecosystems, releases climate-altering gases into the atmosphere and worsens flooding and wildfire risk.

“With more than 550 incidents of grouse moor burning recorded across Yorkshire alone since the burning season began in October, it’s time for the government to legislate to end this environmentally-damaging practice.”

Moorland burning has come under fire from environmentalists and the Environment Minister, Zac Goldsmith, has promised to put an end to the practice with a new law. He said legislation is necessary because a voluntary approach had not worked.

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

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Notes for editors:

  • The positions against burning capture some of Northern England’s most iconic landscapes including West Yorkshire’s Wuthering Moors, Forest of Bowland’s Brennand Fells and the Peak District’s Kinder Scout.
  • Research part-sponsored by Yorkshire Water at the University of Leeds has found that grouse moor burning degrades peatland habitat, releases climate-altering gasses into the atmosphere, reduces biodiversity and increases flood risk.
  • Yorkshire Water has committed to reviewing each of its grouse shooting leases to decide their future and United Utilities is bringing its leases onto short-terms, with a similar review expected to take place in the future.

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