Sheffield Council says grouse moor burning must end to tackle climate change

Sheffield Council has backed an end to heather burning to save the region’s peat moors from being damaged for grouse shooting.

In a statement the Council has called for the environmentally-damaging practice, which is performed by shoot operators to engineer game bird breeding habitat, to stop to help tackle climate change and allow Sheffield to reach carbon neutral by 2030.

The plea comes just days ahead of the grouse moor burning season opening on Thursday, 1 October — when many of Sheffield’s almost 80 square kilometres of grouse moors will begin being set on fire by shoots.

Cllr Mark Jones, Cabinet Member for Environment, Streetscene and Climate Change at Sheffield Council, said:

“We never carry out or support the burning of heather or heathlands as the damage to these habitats could result in significant loss of biodiversity and an increased risk of fires getting out of control.

“In addition the burning of heather moorland releases vast amounts of Carbon Dioxide back into the atmosphere, which completely goes against our climate crisis commitments to become carbon neutral by 2030.”

Peatlands, a threatened moorland habitat, are one of the UK’s biggest carbon stores, locking up millions of tonnes of climate-altering gasses. However, when burning is performed the sensitive habitats are damaged, leading to large amounts of carbon being released into the atmosphere.

Almost three quarters of peatlands in England are already damaged or degraded, Natural England has revealed, with burning being a key driver.

Subsequently, the Committee on Climate Change, which advises the government on policies to help the environment, has recommended the practice be banned to protect peatlands from further damage.

Luke Steele, Spokesperson for Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors, said:

“It’s past time to put an end to the burning of threatened peatlands for grouse shooting — a practice which degrades fragile ecosystems, releases climate-altering gasses into the atmosphere and worsens flooding in communities downstream from grouse moors like those in Sheffield and Rotherham.

“With burning continuing on grouse moors across South Yorkshire, we commend Sheffield Council for giving its support for an end to burning to help save the region’s peatlands from further damage and protect communities from flooding.”

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Notes for editors:

  • Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors campaigns to free up moorland for conservation from exploitation for grouse shooting. By working with society, companies and government to create change, we secure effective protection for wildlife, habitats and local communities.
  • Research by the University of Leeds and others has found that grouse moor burning degrades peatland habitat, reduces biodiversity and increases flood risk.
  • During the last burning season, Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors, which monitors ecological damage on grouse moors, compiled more than 550 reports of peatlands being burnt by shoot operators across the county.