Today the RSPB issued two press releases, one on burning in the uplands, the other on the annual Birdcrime report. It’s a bit unusual for two press releases to come out on the same day but today is the start of the burning season in the uplands and so that timing makes complete sense. I guess the necessity to issue the Birdcrime report (for 2019 after all, it’s hardly hot news!) on the same day might be something to do with the Tory Party Conference being this weekend and so it was felt wise to get those messages out now too. I’ll come back to bird crime later today, burning is the burning issue.
This is a good press release on burning, it’s timely, it’s tough talking and it has a variety of quotes from others. It comes at a time when DEFRA is dragging its feet over banning burning on peatlands (see this post here from August). Since nobody trusts the word of a Conservative minister these days (it would not have been the case in distant times) it is absolutely right for all of us to keep pressing for the action that has been promised.
It’s good to see a wide range of local authorities adding their voices for a ban on burning on peatlands.
The RSPB kicked all of this off in 2012 with a complaint to the EU – that will be before many RSPB staff now engaged in advocacy on this subject had started work for RSPB (before they had started work of any sort for some of them, I guess). These things take a very long time and we need to thank the RSPB for their tenacity in sticking with this issue. If the RSPB had campaigned harder then quicker progress might well have been made, but that they are still plugging away after eight years is a character trait to be applauded.
Successful advocacy is a marathon not a sprint, in fact it is something of a marathon steeplechase as large barriers are put in your way every now and again. And, to stretch the analogy further, it is only because in large NGOs it can be turned into a relay marathon steeplechase, with the baton being passed on to new fit runners now and again that the winning line can be reached at all. However, I know that quite a few of the RSPB staff who kicked this all off back in 2012 are still hanging on in there, with sore feet and not yet having breasted the tape, but surely, surely, the end of the race is close at hand?
Or will George Eustice fail to deliver on government promises? He could clear this up by telling us all – simple as that.
Rebecca Pow failed to offer any firm commitment on when, or how, or to what extent burning will end. But as of today, the opening of the burning season, there is nothing to stop upland owners and managers continuing to carry out habitat-damaging and environmentally harmful heather burning. The facts that burning was curtailed at the end of the last burning season last spring (due to dry weather in Lockdown) and that moorland mismanagers know that the days of burning are probably coming to an end fairly soon, will probably, knowing the community involved, lead to an increased level of burning to make up for future losses. I haven’t seen a call from the Moorland Association for burning restraint, have you?
Will an announcement come soon? Will it be an announcement of a complete ban of burning on peat soils? Will it come into play immediately or be phased in over days, weeks, months, years, decades?
Whenever it comes, if it comes, this government will get only faint praise as they have taken for ever and have put themselves in the position of looking as though they are unwilling to do the right thing.