Ban the Burn and Treesponsibility are among a group of charities, academics and local campaigners with a track record of working on peatland conservation, which has today written to Michael Gove urging him to implement a complete ban on the practice of burning on upland peatland habitats.
A ban is vital in order to protect carbon stores, wildlife, habitats and communities.
We have seen plenty of evidence of continued burning on protected peatland this year, despite the government’s introduction of a voluntary ban on burning.
The lack of compliance with the voluntary ban on burning is likely to worsen, thanks to Natural England’s recent ‘restoration burning’ position statement.
This asserts that,
“in exceptional circumstances it may be appropriate to carry out a one-off burn for the purposes of restoration”
and that Natural England will issue consents where
“it may be possible to conclude that the burn is directly connected with or necessary for the management of the habitat for which the site has been designated.”
However, Natural England’s associated Protocol for Upland Peatland Monitoring
admits that the evidence base for burning for restoration purposes is limited. And since there is already convincing evidence that controlling heather growth through cutting is highly effective in blanket bog restoration, there can be no need or justification for so-called “restoration burning”.
What is needed instead is a concerted programme to re-wet blanket bog across the UK
Healthy blanket bog needs water, not fire. Natural England’s position statement amounts to nothing more than a loophole that allows landowners to avoid the voluntary ban on burning, for entirely spurious reasons.
For these and other reasons, Ban the Burn and Treesponsibility among others have today sent a letter to Michael Gove, calling on him to completely ban burning on upland peatlands.