I am very grateful to Natural England (that’s @NaturalEngland for those of you on Twitter, where you can find me as @MarkAvery) for sending me details of the Walshaw Moor management agreement. They were clearly eager that I read it, so I have, and so can you here. What do you think of it? I’d be very keen to hear from experts in upland ecology on the subject.
On the face of it, and since this apparently resolved ‘dispute’ was mostly about burning of blanket bog, the agreement seems to allow an awful lot of burning to go on – just as, I assume, the Estate wanted. The Estate can burn active blanket bog, wet heath and degraded blanket bog as well as dry heath.
Indeed, one reading of the agreement is that it makes burning of active blanket bog mandatory with 5% of the site having to be rotationally burned each year. Is that consistent with favourable condition of the habitat? I would need experts to tell me the answer to that question.
It is unclear to me, but what do I know, that NE has gained anything from reaching this agreement and, more importantly, it is unclear whether the internationally important blanket bog habitat has gained anything through NE reaching this agreement? I wonder whether the agreement meets all the concerns outlined by NE when they embarked on this case and if it doesn’t why they have reached an agreement? Was it because they were completely wrong to be worried in the first place or is it because pressure has been applied on them?
And you might want to wonder about it too since you will be paying through your taxes for the HLS agreement that will underpin this management.
I’m still rather puzzled by why NE reached this agreement so i will have to ask them and ask some other questions too. I think I’ll be writing a few letters at the weekend and asking NE why they were worried about burning of blanket bog on this site and why they now aren’t? And I will write to Defra to ask Richard Benyon whether he had any meetings, telephone calls or paper or electronic correspondence with NE about heather burning, particularly about heather burning at this site, over the last few months. If there are any people out there who’d like to suggest other questions, or more precise versions of those questions, then I’d be very happy to hear from you.
And this agreement is important as it seems that this has been a test case and similar agreements will apply over large areas of the uplands.
There is something about all this that sets my nostrils twitching.