Environmental campaigners are calling on the Government to step up its efforts to save the nation’s sensitive peatlands from being damaged for grouse shooting.
It comes as the burning season officially closes today, marking the end of six months where peat moors are burnt to encourage new growth of heather to feed grouse reared for shooting.
New legislation was passed by Parliament last month which outlaws burning on many areas of blanket bog, the deepest of peatland sites, after the Government reached consensus that the practice damages the important ecosystems and prevents them from being restored.
But despite the UK’s peatlands being important carbon stores, the legislation will leave some areas of blanket bog and all areas of shallow peatland open to continuing to be burnt. This includes the entire North York Moors National Park, which is one of the largest expanses of heather moorland in England.
Luke Steele, Spokesperson for Ban Bloodsports on Yorkshire’s Moors, said:
“The nation’s peatlands are a crucial lynchpin against climate change, storing as much carbon as all the forests in the UK, Germany and France combined. But when they are burnt for grouse shooting these important habitats turn from carbon stores into carbon emitters.
“Grouse moors are fanning the flames of climate change by setting fire to carbon-rich peatlands. Whilst the partial ban on burning is a step in the right direction, the Government must go the whole way by completely ending the destructive practice.”
According to Natural England, 580 million tonnes of carbon are stored in peatlands and about three quarters of the habitats are degraded. This is largely being driven by grouse moor burning, which is the single biggest threat to England’s Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
In addition to carbon being released when burning is performed on peatlands, researchers at the University of Leeds have found that biodiversity and water quality is heavily impacted by burning.
The consensus surrounding the environmental impact of burning and its contribution to carbon emissions has resulted in the Climate Change Committee recommending that the Government introduces a complete ban.
Luke Steele adds:
“The Government risks falling behind science and public opinion if it does not completely ban burning on all peatlands. We’re calling for urgent action to ensure the burning season which closes today is the last.”
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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.
- Broadcast quality footage and print quality photographs of burning in North, South and West Yorkshire this season are available to download here, with full permission granted for re-publication.