4th May 2011
The Moorland Association – managers of over a fifth of the moorlands in England and Wales – have slammed the Met Office system in place to protect some of England’s most precious landscapes from wildfires as ‘pitifully inadequate.
Chairman of the Moorland Association, Edward Bromet, explained: “We have several square miles of peatland habitat ablaze or burnt, and yet the Met Office system has not reached its top level of ‘Extreme Risk’ to trigger the closure of moors to visitors. It’s like having a fire alarm in your house that goes off after the fire once everything has been destroyed. The system is pitifully inadequate and we have been lobbying hard to get the data re-evaluated and the trigger point lowered.”
Moorland fires are an environmental disaster because they release tonnes of carbon stored up in the peat soils. They are devastating for important and nationally dwindling ground nesting birds, such as Lapwing, Curlew and Golden Plover, that return to the moors at this time of year to raise their young. Iconic landscapes are reduced to black, charred eyesores that can take decades to recover. Wildfires on moorland managed for red grouse are a particular threat as these moors support up to five times as many wading birds as other moorland areas, and are home to a many of England’s most protected and special places – Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
Continued Mr Bromet: “Many of the fires started so far this year appear to have been completely by accident. Perhaps a discarded cigarette, or a barbeque left smouldering; but arson is suspected in some cases and there have been arrests. Given the threat to human life, wildlife and livelihoods, the best thing that visitors can do when the conditions are hot, dry and windy, is stay away from the tinder dry moors altogether. Meanwhile we insist that the powers that be put in place a system that works and keeps the moors and their visitors safe.”