Thursday, 19 September 2013


Peat harvesting in Ireland
I spent much of last week in York at the conference "Investing in Peatlands: Partnership for a New Peatland Era" that was very well run by the IUCN UK Peatland Programme.  Congratulations to Clifton Bain, who was very ably assisted by Rea Cris.

One of the highlights was the launch of the Peatland Carbon Code by Richard Benyon, MP, the Defra Minister, who demonstrated that there is very clear support within Defra for the development of peatland management and restoration.  In his presentation, he even slipped in a reference to the work of The Heather Trust -  what a nice man!

The amount of momentum that is developing behind peatland management and restoration is impressive, and it is clear that our knowledge is increasing in leaps and bounds as a result of all the research that is taking place.  The overarching message is that looking after peatland better is essential.  In "international speak" we need to refer to peatland restoration, but in my mind a lot could be achieved by raising awareness of the value of our peatland asset and providing guidance about how to manage it appropriately.  If ways can be found to provide an additional income stream to land owners and managers to pay for the management work, something positive would happen. This is where I hope that the Peatland Carbon Code will come in.

In the meantime, my one concern from the conference, last week was the lack of engagement by landowners and managers.  An enormous amount of effort is going into researching peatland issues,  but  management improvements and restoration work are largely restricted to conservation bodies.  I believe that we need to be making greater effort to link to all landowners and managers of peatland. if these people can be motivated will start to make a difference.  At present, I feel that we are just nibbling round the edges of the problem.

The Heather Trust stands ready to help, but to do more than fire out blog posts, we need some funding.  In the meantime, one can only read with incredulity the reports coming out of the Republic of Ireland about the amount of peat that has been harvested by Bord na Mona to feed into their power stations.  On this side of the Irish Sea we are making every effort to salvage every last bit of peat, while across the water they are harvesting it by the shed load to convert into carbon dioxide.

The Irish approach to peatland management?