Heather burning is vitally important to grouse shooting. Burning the heather on a rotational basis, every few years, creates a pattern of young and older heather. The younger heather produces green vegetation that is eaten by Red Grouse whereas older heather provides more nesting cover.
This image from talented wildlife photographer Peter Cairns shows the scale of burning in East Scotland that characterises driven grouse moors across the UK. When you see this type of landscape it brings home the message that this is not a natural landscape – it is a highly managed one. Driven grouse shooting is dependent on a burning regime, uncompromising ‘vermine’ control, the provision of medicated grit as a medicine, grouse butts for shooters to shoot from etc etc.
Taken as a whole, the intensive management of the uplands to provide expensive shooting days for a few people creates a range of environmental and social problems. The illegal killing of protected birds of prey is just one of a wide range of consequences of this land management. The pursuit of higher and higher grouse bags (hunting totals) is behind this intensive and uncompromising land management.
The burning of heather on drier areas of moorland is not opposed by wildlife conservation organisations but, as is so often the case, grouse moor managers push things too far. Too much burning is done of the sensitive areas of blanket bog – the damper areas where Sphagnum mosses are working hard to make peat! The RSPB has called for an end to the burning of blanket bogs and the National Trust is moving away from this particular form of intensive management to a more natural approach on its land in the Peak District.
I wonder – when you go to the hills, do you want to see a scarred and burned landscape which is solely like that because of the urge to produce unnaturally high densities of Red Grouse to be used as living targets? Is this landscape pretty or damaged?
Please sign my e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting which is approaching 4000 signatures in its third week. Thank you to all who have signed and sent messages of support.