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Heather burning and the need for all to be on the same page

15th March 2017

The Moorland Association welcomes continuing debate about heather burning and the opportunity to present the facts and address misconceptions.

An article in the Shooting Times by retired head gamekeeper Lindsay Waddell, a former chairman of the National Gamekeepers Organisation ably describes the consequences of a ban on heather burning (‘Upland Keeper’, Wednesday 15th March). However, his assertion that Natural England is imposing a total ban in the central Pennines in incorrect.

Natural England along with the Moorland Association and other stakeholders are cooperating to safeguard the future of English upland areas and, in particular, deep peat (more than 40 cms in depth) and blanket bog in the North of England.  Heather burning is a vital tool in this process to manage the vegetation and speed up restoration; restoration burning and burning for wildfire breaks are in fact embedded in the latest Countryside Stewardship scheme promoted by DEFRA.

There are several fine examples of successful collaboration between a moors and Natural England currently underway and involve peatland restoration plans where restoration burning, along with cutting and grazing, remain firmly in the toolkit.

The Moorland Association, on areas of deep peat that its members manage, has helped lead a new approach to upland and the focus is on outcomes that benefit all. These benefits include carbon storage, improved water quality, slowing the flow of water, biodiversity, grazing and grouse.

As we have said many times, peatland restoration activities include controlled moorland burning, reintroduction of sphagnum mosses to boost water retention and the construction of peat, stone and heather bale dams in upland areas.

With such a valuable natural resource at stake and clear widespread benefits, it is vital that all moorland managers embrace developments and Natural England works as closely as it can with those on the ground. Constructive dialogue and listening – to ensure everyone is on the same page – on all sides will go a long way to preventing misunderstanding that could impede progress.

Amanda Anderson

Director

The Moorland Association

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Did You Know?

75% of Europe’s remaining upland heather moorland is found in the UK – but this area declined alarmingly over the latter part of the last century. The Moorland Association was set up in 1986 to coordinate the efforts of moorland owners and managers to halt this loss, particularly in England and Wales.

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