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Poul Christensen, Chairman of Natural England, reflecting on a visit to a grouse moor in North Yorkshire, congratulated the MA and its members: " Moorland owners care for some of England’s most iconic landscapes. We have 75 per cent of the world’s remaining heather moorland here in the UK and careful conservation allows millions of visitors to enjoy exceptional wild places, supporting local jobs and businesses.
They are also complex ecosystems that require careful management for sustainable shooting businesses as well a wealth of wildlife. The role of moors in both the water and carbon cycles is vital too."


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Natural England Scraps Its ‘Vital Uplands’ Document

20th April, 2012

Scrub Invasion at Bridestones due to a lack of rotational burning and grazing.

The Moorland Association is delighted that Natural England has finally seen sense and is to scrap its road map to working in the Uplands. In the process of developing its document ‘Vital Uplands’ the organisation charged with protecting and enhancing wildlife and landscape, did not consult The Moorland Association, despite its members managing over a fifth of the uplands in England.

The proposed vision was met with alarm by The Moorland Association in November 2009, when Martin Gillibrand said: “The integrated management of moorland by rotational heather burning and carefully balanced sheep grazing has protected our heather moorland for at least the last century. As a result, much of this rare habitat in England has more recently become protected by law for its unique vegetation and birdlife. To make policy changes that will destroy what is protected now makes no sense and will not lead to the benefits claimed by Natural England.”

The ill advised vision also encouraged the encroachment of scrub and trees on open moorland which would have a negative impact on the existing wildlife ideally suited to the current open habitat. For example vulnerable populations of Merlin, Britain’s smallest bird of prey, are heavily protected through Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Special Protection Areas, but the bird would cease to nest if its breeding sites become encroached by trees and scrub.

An increase in trees, scrub and woody stemmed old heather would also increase the biomass available to a wildfire, the threat from which has greatly increased with hotter drier spells leading to many damaging moorland fires already this year. Doubling the biomass of fuel available to a fire quadruples the intensity with which a fire burns, not only destroying the important surface vegetation but also the seed germination layer and crucially the carbon rich soil below, potentially releasing tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

The Moorland Association maintains that such changes, particularly on grouse moors, would be detrimental to our natural heritage and that Natural England should have sought land manager’s views and expertise well before publishing such a document. The Association and its members look forward to working very closely with Natural England during its Upland Delivery Review Programme so that the benefits grouse moor management provides to society may be protected and enhanced for future generations.

© Moorland Association 2006
Any photographs may only be reproduced for editorial use with permission.
Please contact Amanda Anderson Tel 0845 4589786 for any press or photographic inquiries.