The UK’s largest shooting organisation, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) has criticised the RSPB for using the recent Mourne mountains wildfire as a platform to call for a ban on controlled burning. 
The fire, which the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) believe may have been started deliberately, began on Slieve Donard and raged from Friday through to Sunday of last weekend. It was declared a major incident and required a multi-agency approach, including the use of helicopters and more than 100 firefighters. The fire devastated around 600 acres of natural habitat in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
Tommy Mayne, BASC NI director, said: “The Mournes will take decades to fully recover following this devastating wildfire which has had a massive impact on wildlife and the natural environment. People across NI are rightly saddened by the fire and the devastation that it has caused. It is beyond belief that the RSPB has used this as an opportunity to call for an outright ban on heather burning in a bid to further its own policy objectives.
“The controlled burning of heather on peatland undertaken by farmers, gamekeepers and conservationists is a completely separate issue to wildfires. As long-term members of the Glenwherry Hill Regeneration Project (GHRP), where controlled burning takes place, the RSPB knows full well that it is an effective habitat management tool. Controlled burning reduces the fuel load, improves the condition of heather and creates a habitat mosaic which has significant benefits for ground-nesting breeding birds such as golden plover, lapwing and red grouse.
“The RSPB’s attempt to exploit this situation for its own ends, will further consolidate the view of some within the NI rural community that the RSPB will bypass the science that does not fit their narrative.”


Notes to Editors:
RSPB press release: RSPB NI calls for ban on peatland burning

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