Don’t ban the burn

Gareth Dockerty

Gareth Dockerty

Gareth is head of uplands at BASC. Having joined the organisation in 2016, Gareth’s role focuses on ensuring decision makers, stakeholders and the public understand the benefits of shooting for upland habitats and rural communities.

This year there has been a sustained attack against grouse shooting targeting the use of prescribed burning in our uplands. Their message, “ban all burning”. But this idea is flawed and based on cherry-picked research.

In my new role as upland officer, I’ve been hard at work quashing these misinformed ideas and educating people about the benefits of prescribed burning.

Prescribed burning = habitat management option

When it comes to habitat management there is never a one size fits all approach. There is no simple solution to get the best for all habitats.

Instead land managers, like gamekeepers, must take a site-specific approach. This includes managing moorlands and its habitat.

Like with most things in life, there are pros and cons. A land manager will consider options on mowing, grazing, burning, re-wetting or even no management at all.

You can read more about the landscape on a grouse moor here.

Combatting deception

The current target of the anti-grouse shooting brigade is the 15 local councils in Yorkshire. Their aim is to coerce busy councillors to agree that prescribed burning on moorland is bad.

This persuasion method is accompanied by little or no knowledge of the subject, thus ramping up the pressure on the government.

A large part of my role is getting vital information on complex issues to decision makers and combatting this deception. Blowing my own trumpet here – getting the right ratio of science and media-friendly content is an artform. For example, an urban-based MP will not require or wish to receive the same briefing as a rural councillor and so on. It’s a fine balance.

Getting a good balance

Communication is vital and you need to be prepared to listen to both sides of the argument and work together to find a solution. Issues are very rarely black or white and decision makers are largely ambivalent to those pushing one-sided arguments.

Prescribed burning has its place and is a vital part of a land managers tool kit. But the arguments in favour can admittedly be more long-winded. Fortunately, resources have been made available so we can further our understanding and promote both the advantages and disadvantages of burning.

It is these resources that form the bedrock of a BASC brief used to counter extremist opinions set on a ban of burning. The one-page response highlights our straight down the line policy and discusses both the known and unknown consequences of a blanket ban on burning. Click here to download the BASC brief.

You can also click here to read the independent review into grouse moor management in Scotland. 

Disseminating the facts

This STOP, LOOK and LISTEN brief has been sent to all county councillors across Yorkshire with a cover letter explaining that the shooting community is willing to cooperate to ensure the future of the moors. We do not expect responses from all 1,000 councillors, but we do expect them to heed the messages that extreme views can have consequences.

From those councillors we have spoken to, the antis are clearly putting words in their mouths and they are thankful for a fuller understanding of the argument. BASC’s campaign is not based on creating snappy and short-lived headlines but maintaining the future of a working and magnificent uplands.

Our message is clear; supporting prescribed burning does not mean you are against tackling climate change but aware of the science behind the increasing risk of wildfires, bracken control, conservation, and moorland management.

How can you help?

Please take the time to read the brief and forward to your councillor. 

Click here to to download BASC brief.

BASC would be delighted to speak to any councillor willing to learn more about this complex argument. We can perhaps organise a visit to a moor so they can learn first-hand the dedication and work given over by moorland managers.

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