BASC has written to Environment Secretary Michael Gove to highlight how managing the uplands for grouse shooting can prevent wildfires.

BASC has sent Mr Gove a copy of its white paper ‘Grouse Shooting and Moorland Management’ which contains references to peer-reviewed papers on the use of controlled burning and firebreaks.

The letter explains that gamekeepers – who have helped firefighters tackle the blaze on Saddleworth Moor – are directly responsible for the management of heather moorland which is rarer than rainforest.

Gamekeepers use rotational burning and cutting to manage vegetation which acts as strategic firebreaks and therefore reduces the risk of wildfires.

Matt Ellis, BASC’s head of science, said: “Gamekeepers have a great deal of knowledge on managing fires and using targeted and rotational burns to reduce the fuel load on the lands they manage.

“Not only does this reduce the opportunities for fire to spread, but it also provides the mosaic of habitats so valuable for upland birds.

“Large expanses of invasive bracken and rank heather are typical of unmanaged uplands and provide the perfect opportunities for wildfires to spread.

“Fires in these areas can burn so hot they ignite the peat, destroying valuable habitat and releasing huge volumes of greenhouse gas.

“Properly maintained firebreaks provide valuable time to bring wildfires in these areas under control and prevent the devastating growth of fires such as the one we have seen on Saddleworth Moor.”

BASC has published an infographic which highlights the benefits of grouse shooting for land management, conservation and fragile rural economies.

Garry Doolan

Garry Doolan is BASC’s deputy director of communications and public affairs. He has more than 20 years experience of journalism and the media. He joined the organisation in 2016 and is a keen shooter and beater, with his springer spaniel Quincy.

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