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Moorland burning: New petition urges Yorkshire councils to back ban

Campaign group says burning - carried out by landowners to support recreational shooting of game birds - degrades land, releases climate-altering gasses, and contributes to flooding in communities located downstream.

Heather burning on Barden Moor geograph org uk 1762004

Heather burning in North Yorkshire.

Photo by Ian Greig (Wikimedia Commons).

Campaigners are urging councils across Yorkshire to support a ban on the environmentally destructive practice of moorland burning.

Heather-clad moorland is set on fire by landowners to engineer optimal breeding habitat for game birds like grouse, for the purpose of recreational shooting.

A petition addressed to eleven Yorkshire councils urges them to back a ban on the practice that has been proposed by government ministers.

It's been organised by Ban Bloodsports On Yorkshire's Moors, who say that the burning "has a broad range of ecological impacts including degrading peatlands, releasing climate-altering gasses into the atmosphere, decreasing biodiversity and contributing to flooding in communities downstream from grouse moors."

Yorkshire contains over half of England's carbon-rich blanket bogs, which campaigners say were subject to 550 incidents of burning between October 2019 and April this year.

On 15 July, Wakefield Council said that they supported a ban on peat moor burning in response to the petition.

When contacted for a statement, Cabinet Member for Culture, Parks and Leisure at Sheffield City Council Mary Lea told Now Then that the Council had "previously supported" calls for the practice to be reviewed with a view to it being outlawed, but stopped short of joining Wakefield Council in backing an outright ban.

"We do not allow bloodsports on Council land in Sheffield, and therefore grouse shooting and the burning of heather on our moorlands is not permitted," she said, referring to Council-owned upland farm tenancies.

"We never carry out or support the burning of heather and heathlands as the damage to these habitats could result in a significant loss of bio-diversity and an increased risk of fires getting out of control."

She continued: "In addition the burning of heather moorland releases vast amounts of carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere, which completely goes against our climate crisis commitments to become carbon neutral by 2030."

The government's own Committee on Climate Change has recommended that a ban be introduced this year, as recent flooding on the River Don in November 2019 exacerbates the need to reduce water run-off upstream.

"Residents across the county have aired concerns that burning has increased in severity in recent years, and is being conducted "day after day after day", with smog polluting communities and smoke entering homes," say petition organisers.

The petition has attracted 2,545 signatures so far.

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