The Parliamentary debate on Heather Burning. 18th November 2020

Below is a fantastic article ahead of the Westminster Hall debate on Heather Burning. It is written by the Peak District Moorland Group, it dispels the common misconceptions that are far too often spread about by those who have other agendas.

Ahead of the Westminster Hall debate today, originally promoted to discuss the practice of Moorland Burning, but now it appears that its being advertised by some, as a debate on whether Grouse Shooting should be banned?

Some really good work by many of the shooting organisations and individuals in briefing many MP’s prior to the debate tomorrow, we have also seen a term which our sneaky opponents have dropped into the narrative, clearly to mislead the public.

This term being branded about is “Peat Burning”, and why moorland managers think it necessary?

Well for those that are not inclined to fact check, moorland owners and gamekeepers are also against “Peat Burning”, that is why on many wildfires we are the first and last on the scene of a summer wildfire – to prevent the peat from burning! The practice of “Cool Burning” is a completely different beast, yes fire is its facilitator, but we believe its not only the most efficient method to remove combustible fuel loads effectively, and a necessity in wildfire prevention, but it also provides nutritious growth for an array of moorland species and allows light into the surface layer essential for growth for the important mosses and other moorland flora – which are suppressed when a dense canopy would inhibit its growth.

Cool burns are carried out within the burning season, 1st October to 15th April (but in some years the weather only permits a few weeks or days of burning – which can cause local objection, because many moors seem to be all burning at once), the peat/ground is wet, no chance of peat burning – this is why many say rewetting the moors will prevent wildfires. Well those of us with real on the ground experience know that if the above surface vegetation is dry, a fire will run across a sodden bog, so lets bust that myth to start with (though it can be useful in preventing the severity of a huge peat fire – but as we have seen, and if we agree on climate models, we could see drier summers, leading to drier moors – therefore all the more reason for above surface vegetation management).

So what we are looking for is a quick “flash fire” where the foliage of moorland vegetation is removed and the peat is not effected by this controlled action.

Some also would say that all that smoke being released into the atmosphere is carbon lost, well because its a cool fire, we are only burning an estimated 25% of the vegetation (the woody stems are left unburnt), from Natural England review on moorland carbon, this equates to about 2.4% of the habitat carbon – remember we are not burning peat, its a “cool” burn!). However the flip side to a uncontrolled summer wildfire is huge and tonnes of carbon is lost.

Below are a few images of what happens when the fuel load isn’t managed and a wildfire is started by a disposable BBQ or arson.

Lets hope that everyone involved in todays debate, bases their views on facts not assumptions, such as why moorland managers want to carry on burning peat…

For more information please do check out the work by the GWCT on todays debate…/the-westminster-hall-debate-on-…/…

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