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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.