Big Hebden Bridge call for Yorkshire Water to stop grouse shooting on its land

Ban the Burn was one of 17 groups across Yorkshire that took part in Yorkshire Water Day of Action on 25th May, organised by StopThe Shoot.

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People queued up at the Ban the Burn stall in St George’s Square to sign petition  cards to Yorkshire Water’s Chief Executive Officer, saying they want an end to grouse shooting on the water company’s land. All 100 cards were signed in just over an hour.

All the signed petition cards

All the signed petition cards

If you missed the chance to sign the petition postcard, you can contact Yorkshire Water on social media – tweet @YorkshireWater and on Facebook. Make sure they understand that you’d like them to pull the plug on grouse shooting and become an environmental champion.

Yorkshire Water is one of the largest landowners in Yorkshire which leases its land to grouse shoots, where tens of thousands of birds are shot for ‘fun’ – and the profit of the grouse shooting tenants.

On its grouse shooting land – as on other grouse shooting estates – large sections of heather moorland are set on fire to engineer optimal breeding habitat for red grouse – damaging sensitive peatland habitat. Air and water are polluted and rare breeding birds can no longer make the degraded moors their home.

Many other animals such as stoats, weasels, birds and other wild animals are trapped, snared and shot on the estates to ensure red grouse make it into the air to be used as living targets.

Thanks to all the people who signed the petition card to Yorkshire Water

Ros Berrington, from Ban the Burn, said:

“Thanks to all the people in Hebden Bridge on Saturday who signed the card to Yorkshire Water. People were aware of the issues and eager to tell Yorkshire Water to stop grouse shooting on Walshaw Moor above Hebden Bridge.

“The residents of the Calder Valley are at the sharp end of climate change, with several serious floods from extreme rainfall in recent years. That’s why we had so much support in our campaign to stop Yorkshire Water leasing their land to Grouse shooting estates.

Mismanaging the moors for grouse shooting increases Hebden Water flood levels, destroys blanket bog, worsens climate change and kills off many native animals to increase Grouse numbers. All so they can be shot for trophy hunting.”

Most Yorkshire Water grouse shooting tenants haven’t signed up to government scheme to end burning on blanket bog

Richard Bannister, owner of Walshaw Moor Estate, is Yorkshire Water’s grouse shooting
tenant on their land around Widdop and other nearby reservoirs.

Along with the majority of the water company’s grouse shooting tenants, Richard Bannister has failed to add his name to the government’s scheme to end burning over blanket bog.

The government introduced the voluntary scheme in the hope of avoiding legislation to bring grouse moor management in line with EU regulations that protect peatland habitats.

When Natural England gave consent to burn blanket bog on Walshaw Moor Estate, after inexplicably dropping its legal case against the Estate for mismanaging the highly protected Natura 2000 land, Bannister’s intensive burning of the moor prompted the RSPB to lodge complaints with the European Commission.

In 2013, Ban the Burn also took a complaint to the European Commission.

As a result, in 2016, the European Commission launched its investigation into Walshaw Moor estate’s practice of burning heather on blanket bog. Because deep peat should be maintained or restored to healthy blanket bog.

This led to European Commission proceedings against the UK for breaking binding EU regulations protecting peatland habitats and wildlife.

The UK Government admitted to the European Commission that, in addition to Walshaw Moor Estate, grouse moors are the only places in England with Natural England’s permission to burn blanket bog on Special Areas of Conservation and that management activities, including burning, are funded by EU agri-environment money.

The UK Government made a commitment to the European Commission to carry out a review of these permissions,  following completion of Natural England’s review of its upland evidence.

Natural England’s evidence review concluded that ongoing burning of blanket bog habitat would prevent its maintenance and restoration

But rather than introduce legislation banning burning, in order to make sure that landowners maintain and restore blanket bog,  the Defra minister Michael Gove chose to trust landowners to stick to a voluntary pledge to stop rotational heather burning.

It’s a sign of the weakness of this measure that  Richard Bannister – whose mismanagement of Wlashaw Moor Estate created problems for the UK government in the first place –  doesn’t appear to have signed up to Mr Gove’s voluntary deal. Along with most of Yorkshire Water’s grouse shooting tenants.

So Ban the Burn, along with other campaign groups, has asked Michael Gove to ban burning on upland peatlands. We’re not holding our breath.

What’s Natural England doing to make sure Walshaw Moor Estate is sticking to its Environmental Stewardship agreement?

Ban the Burn urgently want to know what Natural England’s doing to make sure Walshaw Moor Estate is complying with its agreement to manage and restore the estate’s habitats and wildlife. For which it’s being paid £2.5m of public subsidies.

Particularly in the light of this recent evidence that doesn’t look anything like restoring the peatland habitats (please click on each picture for full view):

Yorkshire Water likes to claim it’s an industry leader in environmental protection and conserving wildlife

So why does it continue to allow grouse shooting on its land? The company has also admitted native wildlife is being killed to ensure large numbers of red grouse can be shot for entertainment.

Ban the Burn and other campaign groups working with Stop the Shoot are asking Yorkshire Water to become the environmental champion it aims to be by pulling the plug on grouse shooting.

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