Sunday, 5 February 2012

England - Heather Burning Inquiry - Walshaw Moor Estate

See today's article in The Telegraph for the background and an update about the public inquiry that has been hearing the appeal by the Walshaw Moor Estate in the South Pennines against restrictions proposed by Natural England on heather burning.

Concerns about burning on blanket bog are at the centre of this issue; Natural England appear to want to restrict the burning cycle preferred by the estate.  The details of the inquiry are not yet available but the outcome, and the judicial review that follows it, will have a major bearing on the management of the English uplands that is likely to spill over into other parts of the UK.

The management of moorland for grouse is correctly reported as being the most significant factor on much of the English uplands.  It attracts the investment, that pays the wages of the gamekeepers, that produce the grouse, that attracts the guns, that provides the income to justify the investment and provides the financial benefit to the whole community.

While grouse might be the driving factor, we should not lose sight of the other benefits that management of our uplands brings.  Increasingly the wider benefits from management are being recognised: for agriculture, through improved quality of grazing; for biodiversity, through the increased species mix; for the ecosystem services, through amongst other factors, better quality water and better storage of carbon in peat; and for the landscape, by avoiding monocultures of invasive species such as bracken, scrub and coarse grasses.

A Heather Trust view is that it is possible to meet all these diverse objectives through an integrated, management approach.  To achieve this we must not stop the private investment in these areas and to justify this investment requires grouse production, and an appropriate burning regime.  To turn off the private investment is to condemn much of the uplands to becoming an unproductive, species-poor desert.

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