Kirklees Council says grouse moor burning must end to protect rare peatlands from damage

Kirklees 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 protect the environment.

The plea comes as the grouse moor burning season opens today, 1 October — with a considerable area of grouse moors in the Wessenden Valley expected to begin being set on fire by shoots.

Cllr Rob Walker, Cabinet Member for Environment and Culture at Kirklees Council, said:

“Whilst Kirklees Council do not own any moorland used for grouse shooting I am concerned about the damage done to biodiversity and the regeneration of healthy peat bogs by the practice of burning heather to promote the commercial rearing of grouse.

“I believe in working with land managers to promote more sustainable techniques that will enrich our countryside”

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.

Over 200 hectares of rare blanket bog were destroyed in a major blaze on Meltham Moor in March when planned grouse moor burning got out of control. West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service criticised landowners after 20 engines and 100 firefighters had to respond and ordered grouse moors to stop burning “with immediate effect”.

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.

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

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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.