The UK is home to 75 percent of the world’s heather moorland, which as a habitat is rarer than rainforest. The majority of heather moorland in the UK is managed for grouse shooting and funded primarily by private investment – this is the most cost-effective model of upland management to the tax payer.
Throughout the year, grouse moor managers use a range of management tools to maintain and improve the health of this unique upland environment. Heather burning, cutting and monitored grazing can all play a part, while managing pests, predators and invasive species, controlling disease and ticks, and restoring historically damaged peatland all help towards improving the landscape.
Grouse moor facts
- Heather burning (known as muirburn in Scotland) involves low intensity, quick and ‘cool’ burns of selected small areas of mature heather. Burning in such a way removes the canopy of older heather and encourages the regeneration of new heather shoots with no adverse effect on underlying peat or soil.
- Well-planned heather burning creates a mosaic of heather habitat that caters for a rich array of species.
- Controlled burning reduces the risk of wildfires by reducing fuel-load and creating firebreaks.
- Managing heather helps preserve and protect the UK’s biggest carbon store in peat. Grouse moor managers have a vested interested in ensuring peatlands are in good condition as peat is the basic building block for grouse habitat.
- Responsible grouse moor managers are working to restore historically damaged peatland, by blocking drainage ditches (re-wetting), and through revegetating exposed peat.
- Bracken control is routinely undertaken on heather moorland managed for grouse shooting. This prevents the invasive species from swamping other moorland plants and reduces the available breeding habitat for ticks.
- Many grouse moor managers privately fund tick treatments. Ticks can pass on disease to humans, grouse and other wildlife.
- Grouse moor managers are helping to reduce downstream flood risk by re-wetting peat, blocking grips/drains to slow water run off and creating ponds and mini moorland scrapes, among other things.
- 90 percent of English grouse moors fall within a National Park or an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
- The cessation of grouse shooting would most likely result in the abandonment of heather moorland areas, and management of heather and peatland would cease unless public funding could be found.