Press release – Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors

Walshaw Moor Estate. Photo: Sarah Hanson

New figures showing the shocking scale of grouse moor burning have been released by a wildlife organisation ahead of the season officially closing tomorrow.

Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors (BBYM) has compiled more than 550 reports of the county’s heather moorland being burnt — an ecologically-destructive practice performed to engineer habitat for grouse which are shot for sport — since the season opened on October 1.

Environment minister Zac Goldsmith has promised to outlaw the practice, saying that a voluntary approach to stem moorland burning has not worked, with government advisors from the Committee on Climate Change recommending legislation be introduced within the year.

Luke Steele, Spokesperson for Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors, said: ‘Voluntary efforts by the government to dampen down grouse moor burning have gone up in smoke with hundreds of fires deliberately started on Yorkshire’s iconic moorlands this season to engineer game bird breeding habitat.

On top of driving vulnerable wildlife from its moorland home, burning on sensitive peatland degrades ecosystems, releases climate-altering gasses into the atmosphere and worsens flooding and wildfire risk.

The lack of progress on the ground demonstrates the urgency with which the government must act to protect the upland environment. Any shortcomings in the promised rule changes could leave legislation open to abuse.’.

Dramatic drone footage published by BBYM to accompany the figures (video here) shows several of the large fires raging in the North York Moors National Park, where 317 of the burning incidents were recorded over five months.

There is a risk that the government’s promised rule changes may not capture these moorland fires because of differences in peat depths. This is despite environmental scientists warning that shallower peatland must be restored to its healthy state to tackle climate change, alongside deeper peatland being protected from immediate harm.

Blanket bog and moorland of mixed depths was also burnt on 151 occasions across the county in direct contravention of a government agreement to protect the threatened habitat from harm. This includes 5 fires on Meltham Moor, West Yorkshire, where more than 200 hectares of rare blanket bog was damaged in a major blaze last month when grouse moor burning got out of control.

Luke Steele added: ‘It makes no sense that the government is making unprecedented investment in restoring degraded peatlands as part of the £640m Nature for Climate Fund whilst these valuable habitats continue to be set ablaze by grouse moors on its watch. Any continuation of the practice flies in the face of a major new study released by DEFRA in recent weeks showing that burning moorland is the worst intervention for restoring peatland.‘.

Three of the largest landowners in Northern England — Yorkshire Water, United Utilities and the National Trust — have already permanently ended routine heather burning by grouse shooting tenants on the 34 moorlands which are owned between them.

– ENDS –


18 Replies to “Press release – Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors”

  1. It really defys belief that this practice of heather burning ccan ontinue. Like any regulation such as the current ones on this virus the Government could ban the burning of moorland tomorrow if they wished. They are stalling as long as they possibly can. If there was ever a better demonstration of a rotten Government stalling and failing to take decisive action speedily because of its own party’s vested interests in killing our wildlife for fun, this is it

    1. Scotland has only implemented a temporary ban, does this imply the SNP has vested interests too?

      1. Fergus bloody Ewing certainly has. The Laird’s friend and single handed supporter of the Tartan and Shortbread-Walter Scott’s Highlandism view of Scotland. He’s done more to hold back back the modernisation of Scotland than any amount of Tories. He needs to go.

        I’m an SNP supporter, but the likes of Fergus Ewing and Joan McAlpine are dragging the party and Scotland backwards instead of helping drive Scotland forward.

        1. Couldn’t agree more and can’t understand how he has held onto his post for so long.

          1. Nepotism, in short. His family ties are the reason, and that the PR of expelling or even merely reprimanding him given his family background, is considered worse than just working around him.

            Why they tolerate Joan McAlpine’s watered down Thatcherism and Bindelism is another question entirely. Both of them are a total disgrace.

  2. It is past time this practice was banned. Moorland managers have shown that they cannot stick to any sort of voluntary agreement on not burning deep peat, it is also unclear whether their employees on the ground understand where the deep peat is. In fact all moorland burning is bad for the ecology of moorland whatever the depth of the underlying peat soils and bad for the production of climate change gases both during the burning itself and from the subsequent oxidation of drying peat soils. Its bad for downstream water ecology and supply and potentially increases downstream flooding.
    The idea put forward by MA and others that this is to combat the risks of wildfires is just so much spin and hogwash. Our uplands deserve real protection from this institutional vandalism. A ban will be good for the ecology, good for local communities and good for the planet. The message to government is a simple one—– GET IT DONE.

  3. I’ve never understood this policy, from a conservation point it’s madness, the destruction of invertebrates and plants must accumulate into the millions, probably billions per acre. The heather can be hand cut, yes it’s hard going, as is coppicing that’s tough work too, but both are beneficial to wildlife. The grouse need mature heather as much as new growth, when will these cone-heads realise that everything in nature has a connection.

    And, if you think this destruction madness is one sided…then think again, the conservationist side is just as bad, the recommended treatment right from the start for our fields was to spray – they were told where to go, as a result we have seven National Invertebrate Rarities in these fields and two species of moth that’ll make lepidopterists foam at the mouth.

  4. Farming Today this morning , about 9mins in
    Amanda Anderson talking about Sky Lanterns and moorland fires.
    As if they had never intentionally lit a fire themselves.

    1. Amanda is a bit like that orange oaf across the water, Trump, trying to blame something else when everyone knows who the real culprit(s) is/are. It’s a standard ploy by the criminally guilty. That others including Farming Today accept this tosh without much/no challenge is lazy and atrocious journalism, bias or crass naivety.

      1. Should people send burning paper bags into the sky for fun so that they land randomly and start fires and kill livestock that ingest the wire frames – or not?

        1. No they certainly should not, but this message coming from the MA, the sponsors of burning our uplands is a bit rich, to say the least

  5. I try to avoid hills – I got altitude sickness after walking up to St Michaels Tower – but a few years ago I went to the Migneint to look at some fog, and a crow. We get fog and a crow in the South Wiltshire Downs but they aren’t as precious as the fogs and crows you travel hundreds of miles to see. What impressed me about the Migneint were the Lonesome Pines that had appeared in the newly re-wetted landscape without anyone planting them. I was sternly informed that my love of Lonesome Pines was misplaced and that they were due to be ruthlessly extirpated by The Pinefinder General. I didn’t argue as I didn’t have the car keys and my wellies were becoming trapped by flooded suction but when I got home I looked up the root cause of the Hate for Lonesome Pines and thanks to Duck Duck Go and Alexandra Elbakyan I found a paper that explained some of it.

    Although the paper didn’t say it explicitly my simple mind read between its lines and concluded that the success of blanket bog restoration and therefore The Future Of The Planet depends on there being nothing else there but sphagnum.

    No grips, no tracks, no roads, no carparks, no visitor centres, no lavatories, no petrol stations, no windmills, no recharging points, no ice-cream vans, no burger vans, no fake-burger vans, no infotainment crews faking wildlife documentaries, no ifs, no butts and in particular no plant with anything more sophisticated than a rhizoid because anything more efficaceous than a rhizoid would tend to lower the water-table and the growth rate of the peat and defeat the object of the exercise.

    So no trees – whether self-seeds or planted; no ericaceous species and all that they might support. Just sphagnum. My simple mind pondered whether this would result in an alternative monoculture comprised of hundreds of Sphagnum spp. or whether it would be confined to wherever deep peat already is but as deep peat doesn’t just appear overnight despite what we are told it must start off as shallow peat or even no peat but there should be nothing that anything could perch on or nest in or nibble at before the next glaciation scrapes everything off again. And as Lonesome Pines are not allowed, why is heather?

    1. One upside of the lock down – Filbert has time on his hands; I would have “liked” it twice if I could!

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