Wuthering Moors 73 – burning while Gove fiddles

Blog posts titled Wuthering Moors are about the issue of burning of blanket bogs by grouse shooting estates (e.g. Wuthering Moors 28, 15 October 2012), the inability of the government agency Natural England to do its job properly on regulating landowners on protected moorland sites (Wuthering Moors 68 – the background to an unlawful decision, 11 May 2018 and Wuthering Moors 67 – a significant victory, 10 May 2018) , and the pickle into which the UK government has got itself with the European Commission over its poor implementation of the Habitats Directive (eg Wuthering Moors 70 – EU infraction proceedings, 13 August 2018).

Here are some photographs, all taken by the wonderful Bob Berzins, taken at the weekend, of areas of Walshaw Moor which have been burned since the start of this year’s burning season (1 October).

Walshaw Moor Estate does not appear to be a signatory of the non-binding and riddled-with-holes MoU which Michael Gove and Defra have been touting around grouse shooting estates in order to try to convince the European Commission that Defra/NE/Gove/Coffey have got a grip on damaging burning of blanket bog (even though they haven’t got a grip of anything that happens on grouse moors). So they haven’t said that they won’t burn blanket bogs.  The two images above don’t look like blanket bog to me – but they also don’t look like they will be helping to prevent downstream flooding.

Walshaw Moor Estate has signed an agreement with Natural England on the management of the estate but, as this blog revealed, that agreement had a clause in it which meant that it would only come into operation when a track across the protected blanket bog  was given planning permission.  My legal challenge (supported by many of you) of the Habitats Regulation Assessment that underpinned that agreement between NE and the estate showed that it was unlawful and so no agreement currently exists and no planning permission has been given for the track and so, as I understand it, Walshaw Moor Estate can rely on existing consents to carry on burning blanket bog in damaging ways, against Defra’s wishes and against the instructions of the European Commission. 

The two images below do look like blanket bog and I’m sure NE will be checking their maps of peat depth to check whether or not they are.  However, some comments on social media have suggested that this burning is illegal – for the reasons given above I don’t believe it is illegal, but, assuming it is burning of blanket bog, it clearly is sticking two fingers up at Michael Gove, Natural England and the European Commission.

If there are many grouse moors behaving in this manner then it will demonstrate that the ‘Come on chaps, play the game, lay off burning blanket bogs’ approach has failed – as has the ‘Come on chaps, play the game, stop shooting raptors’ approach – and then Michael Gove will have to live up to the promise, made in private but flushed out in public by the quite wonderful Guy Shrubsole, that if rotational burning of blanket bog does not cease then legislation will have to be brought in  to ensure that it does cease.


4 Replies to “Wuthering Moors 73 – burning while Gove fiddles”

  1. Well done to all concerned. I hope that enough people who visit all English grouse moors during the burning season have the knowledge and carry the equipment to record what is going on, just a s demonstrated here. I’m sure the information will prove useful.

  2. We need a place where we can actively record the breeches…. if we dont produce the long list then it makes it sound like there are just a few naughty rogues out there….bending the rules just a wee bit.

  3. Its hardly a surprise that some moors will be burning in defiance of the EU and against the voluntary agreement not to burn blanket bog. They have largely done what they like over many years with regard to habitat management and predator control, legal and illegal. The only exception being the CROW act and even then some will tell you the moor is closed when it isn’t, it doesn’t apply here or in the breeding season and other lies. Circus Maxima is right we need a list of all those seen burning to highlight this.

  4. I have previously developed a demonstration website intended to support a peoples manifesto for wildlife.
    The final website, for which I have already purchased the domain but is nowhere near being ready to be made public, will support or link to individual efforts to further the 200 aims listed, if it could result in meaningful action, likely by a petition to parliament/s. Although blanket bog restoration and prevention of destruction is mentioned in the manifesto it is not specifically stated in any of the 200 aims. However the website could host a methodology for individuals or groups who could provide the necessary information into a database. I’d be happy to see a petition to the uk parliament providing this information and suggesting a carefully worded regulation or legislation change which would make unlawful damage to blanket bog. Further it could retrospectively ban any agreements which allow the destruction of a blanket bog of a defined standard with no compensation to be paid because of the need to prevent climate change. It would also require estates who burn to provide public evidence that the areas do not meet a listed definition of blanket bog, and require NE to confirm the measurements/database information if it is disputed. The regulation/legislation could also cover requirements which ensure burning does not prevent degraded bog being returned to health, as part of the UK commitment to climate change, for which a second definition would be necessary. Burning would not be allowed if the area is capable of being returned to health, and suitable measures have not been taken.
    The website will not go live if the “ministers” do not wish it and if they have a better proposal in the pipeline.

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