BASC has joined other rural organisations in welcoming the government’s recognition of the role of controlled heather burning in responsible moorland management to minimise the risk of uncontrollable wildfires.
In response to a written parliamentary question from Anne-Marie Trevelyan, MP for Berwick upon Tweed, the Defra Minister, Dr Thérèse Coffey, noted that burning in accordance with the law and the Heather and Grass Burning Code can help to reduce fire risk. The government also recognises the work being done by moor owners and managers – working with government in restoring peatland.
BASC, the Countryside Alliance, Moorland Association and National Gamekeepers’ Organisation have urged Defra to ensure that lessons are learnt from the devastating moorland fires of this summer to ensure that there is consistent and responsible management across all heather moorland.
Controlled burning is a vital part of any management – it reduces the fuel load and encourages healthy heather which benefits wildlife without damaging the underlying peat. Also welcome is the government’s restatement of its commitment to the restoration of our blanket bogs, which is also vital to ensuring greater resilience of moorland to uncontrolled wildfires.
BASC chairman Peter Glenser QC said: “A properly managed moor – while always at risk during extended dry and warm weather – contains heather of varying lengths and those areas where heather has been recently subject to controlled burning can act as fire breaks.
“Unmanaged heather moorland has a greater fire risk and such fires are more difficult to control, as we have seen on Saddleworth.
“In addition, the work being done to restore the hydrology of heather moorland will also act against the risk of fires.
“BASC welcomes the Minister’s recognition of this when other commentators have sought to use the recent fires as a weapon against shooting.”
At the height of the fires, BASC wrote to Environment Secretary Michael Gove to highlight how managing the uplands for grouse shooting can prevent wildfires – read more here.