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OPINION: It's Time to End Burning on Grouse Moors

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Burning for grouse moor management helps keep huge areas of uplands in an impoverished state

While the public are implored not to start wildfires, the practise of burning heather for grouse moor management takes place on a huge scale, and is often carried out on peat bogs, a vital carbon store. Ending 'muirburn' could boost both biodiversity and the fight against climate change, say environmental campaigners. As Scotland prepares to host the UN Climate Change Conference, it's time to set an example, says Max Wiszniewski of REVIVE, the coalition for grouse moor reform. 



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 Cloughy 04 Apr 2021
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

Really useful article about the need to prevent all Heather burning on moorland. Reducing all unsustainable practices on peat soils is a worthy aim. There are many unsustainable practices to tackle and these include drainage, burning, and commercial forestry.

However, suggesting that commercial forestry might be an economic alternative to Grouse Moor mamagement is a sub optimal solution.

We've seen large areas of commercial forestry planted on scotlands peatlands since the second World War. These are now recognised as a problem, and replanting on deep peat is being phased out. Commercial forestry is likely to perform better with a reduced environmental impact on mineral soils.

This is a link to a short animation comparing the carbon potential of trees vs a healthy peatland

youtube.com/watch?v=L4fdLWnhDqU&

And a few videos about the issues of burning on Grouse Moor

youtube.com/watch?v=nzsr5A4VhZU&

youtube.com/watch?v=pAAkBwhtNNQ&

By and large the greatest action we can take for the UK's peatlands it to protect and restore them for ecosystem services, such as carbon storage and biodiversity.

This is a really useful conversation to keep going, and It's fantastic that the UKC community is engaging in this.

Cheers,

Cloughy

 Eric9Points 04 Apr 2021
In reply to Cloughy:

In other words, be careful what you wish for.

In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

A very welcome piece- thank you. I especially liked the Ben Nevis/Irnbru comparison!

From my Peak District point of view, I’d like to an end to moor burning here too. Where the moors are National Trust owned, cutting has replaced burning, proving it’s possible.

In theory, the private estates need a licence from Natural England (sic) to burn in a SSSI (which is most of the Dark Peak).  But it doesn’t seem to stop them.

 dovebiker 04 Apr 2021

I live in a cottage on an estate, adjacent to the Glen Livet and Glen Fiddich estates. Practically every dry day we have to endure the smoke and the smell of Muirburn. The sad fact is that there is so little grouse, I can imagine they're well below sustainable populations. The upland monoculture and persecution of predatory species means there are significant problems with rabbits and other species. I have never seen a fox for example in these parts.  I have also come across the carcasses or brown and mountain hare - obviously shot as they carry no sign of predation. Large numbers of reared pheasants and red-legged partridge are the only abundant species that are only sustained by artificial feeders (which attract rats and other rodents) and then blasted to oblivion (if not succumbing to road kill).

 ScraggyGoat 04 Apr 2021
In reply to rsc:

The burning ban is full of loop holes;

www.raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2021/02/05/which-english-grouse-moors-will-escape-defras-so-called-moorland-burning-ban/

In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

I wonder if greater biodiversity of our uplands would mean more natural predators for midges and ticks? (open question; I'd be interested to know the answer)

 webbo 05 Apr 2021
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

I would have thought that the most eco friendly way of burning heather would be to use game keepers as kindling or firelighters.

In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

Thanks for an informative article. Cutting to the chase though the ultimate aim is to reduce/eliminate industrialised grouse shooting. The challenge to that is of course how would estates replace the lost revenue? They are by and large commercial operations with a significant cost base to maintain. I think as an outdoors community/society that is the answer we should help to seek as it’s in our collective(self) interest to do so. 

Post edited at 05:37
 HardenClimber 06 Apr 2021
In reply to SFM:

1) The economics of grouse moors are rather opaque, but my understanding is that there is significant public subsidy. Could different activities be subsidised?

2) There is no comeback for downstream consequences of current managment (flooding). perhaps tha would alter the balance.  A few years ago there were some successful pilots on river slowing above Helmsley. The data showed reduced flooding risk, but there was a very professional and organised kickback to undermine that. Further data supported the orgiginal conclusions. I was struck at how organised the denial was.

3) Do these large commercial operations contribute to the uk economy? If not why do we need them - soft power? .

 mondite 06 Apr 2021
In reply to SFM:

The article covers various ways by which the revenue can be replaced. The oddity of grouse shooting is it really isnt, even when done industrially, very profitable. Even with the subsidies it looks more to be a status symbol rather than a profit centre and thats even with many of the costs externalised onto the wider community.

In reply to Cloughy:

Worthwhile adding that carbon capture through commercial forestry is pretty poor, since most of the wood is then used for something which doesn't have an end of life decommissioning plan, so is unlikely to be fully composted and buried.

Plus also the commercial forestry management in Scotland, and across the UK, is tantamount to environmental vandalism, with huge straight line planted forests with fire breaks which are regularly removed turning areas into what seem to be deserts, destroying entire hillside ecosystems every few years when they are razed to the ground.

However carbon capture through sphagnum moss is a really good proposition.
https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn22313-scattering-moss-can-restore-key-carbon-sink/

In reply to HardenClimber:

1) I don’t disagree that it’s difficult to challenge the commercial viability of some/certain estates shooting set up. I also can envisage that it could be a “loss leader” for other commercial arrangements that are either visible or invisible. If subsidies are in play then then you you need those in charge to change the rules around those....which you succinctly suggest in point 3). 
I think point 3) really is the sticking point in all this....

In reply to mondite:

Personally I can’t really see forestry replacing shooting. Too long term, initial outlay too high, poor return etc etc. I also wouldn’t like all our hills to be covered in commercial plantations(but that’s just my view). 
Phototourism probably has a finite revenue limit, unless there was something exciting to bring international visitors(like a sabre toothed hare or something) then I can’t see how that continuously drives new revenue. 
 

I don’t have the answers but until we come up with something else to usurp that status/elitism then I feel that the status quo endures for a significant amount of time. 

In reply to SFM:

> Personally I can’t really see forestry replacing shooting.

Isn't the problem the monoculture of grouse moors? So regenerate the moors with the native vegetation that should be there (forest low down, then scrub and moorland higher) and encourage a bigger variety of species of birds and mammals for shooting - just a matter of getting away from the obsession with grouse (though there will still be some).

In reply to Robert Durran:

That might work but I think the prestige of grouse shoots has a particular hold over a certain sector of the shooting fraternity. 
On your point about monoculture, I think modern grouse shoots sell an experience based on a perception of a wild shoot. The reality is it’s all manufactured. If it was truly wild then we might not even be having this conversation as it would all be sustainable!

In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

Replace grouse shooting with wind-farms, estates still have an income and carbon reduced. Win-win.

In reply to SFM:

> That might work but I think the prestige of grouse shoots has a particular hold over a certain sector of the shooting fraternity. 

It would require a change of mindset, but, properly managed and marketed, they could charge some knobhead obscene amounts to shoot a Capercaillie or even to stalk a lynx.

 benmorr 07 Apr 2021
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

Thank you for this article. As an ex ghillie on a Cairngorm estate I think this is an accurate portrayal of what happens. In fact, we were often asked to burn off patches of "rank" heather, wind permitting, when doing other jobs such as stalking. The Irn Bru versus the Ben sized contribution to the economy is useful too. Another major problem is the building of roads and overuse of quad bikes which expose the peat (see the Scottich Wild Land Group report: https://www.swlg.org.uk/hill-tracks.html)

COP26 is an important opportunity to hold the Scottish Government to account on its declaration of a climate emergency while allowing muirburn and even the transformation of peatland into concrete for a rocket launching site (see Protect the Mhoine) (https://www.facebook.com/310958926351669/videos/912947215774985).

 Jakey4060 07 Apr 2021
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

Very disappointed to see this on here UKC. This is utterly one-sided and written with complete bias. This is not based on science and has no place on here anyway. I have worked in the industry for a long time and am part of an organisation that spends a lot of money on independent research into Grouse Moors. It angers me when such bias articles are written then believed at face-value by its readers. I've been a UKC member for many years and this is a political topic that should not be on here. 

In reply to Jakey4060:

> Very disappointed to see this on here UKC. This is utterly one-sided and written with complete bias. This is not based on science and has no place on here anyway. I have worked in the industry for a long time and am part of an organisation that spends a lot of money on independent research into Grouse Moors. It angers me when such bias articles are written then believed at face-value by its readers.

Why not put the other side of the argument then, so those of us who aren't industry insiders can try to come to a balanced view? After all, land use on such a vast scale is of concern to all of us.

In reply to Jakey4060:

Care to actually contribute to the discussion you claim to know a lot about, rather than just tell us it's wrong and that you're angry?

 Doug 07 Apr 2021
In reply to Jakey4060:

> ...I have worked in the industry for a long time and am part of an organisation that spends a lot of money on independent research into Grouse Moors.

Care to say who ? Presumably not the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust as they are funded by the shooting industry so hardly independent. Meanwhile staff I know in places such as the James Hutton Institute & the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology would agree with most of the article.

 Harry Jarvis 07 Apr 2021
In reply to Jakey4060:

> I've been a UKC member for many years and this is a political topic that should not be on here. 

Why on Earth should it not be on here? Many of us here - hillwalkers and climbers - have a great interest in the environment, since it is where we choose much of our leisure time. It seems to me that this is exactly the right kind of topic that should be discussed here. 

 Cloughy 07 Apr 2021
In reply to Jakey4060:

A quick Google scholar or science direct search will bring you arguments for and against burning on moorland. That's the great thing about research, both sides can put forward their reasoned opinion until a consensus is reached, and we aren't there yet.

However, Burning isn't the only damaging action that takes place on Grouse moors, for example many managed moors will be drained/gripped. This lowers the Water table, and releases CO2 as the peat oxidises. If grouse moors removed drainage on their land these emissions could be reduced. 

Burning on moorland also smooths out the surface roughness of the peatland. This increases peak flow downstream and exports dissolved organic carbon downstream.

These are simple processes that are well recognised in the literature. Damaged peatlands in the UK peatland are releasing 20 million tons of CO2 every year, so any action to reduce these emissions should be taken.

Post edited at 15:59
In reply to Cloughy:

There is a strong argument for being more flexible about wet heath/heather moorland management in general and looking at other options eg more woodland/scrub cover. Whist the UK has a very large proportion of these protected habitats  trying to keep it in the same place/state  in the face of a changing climate is probably doomed to failure in the longer term and perhaps we need a more dynamic approach to conservation and look at the  values the designations are based upon. As an example the moors above Hebden Bridge might benefit being managed more  for flood risk rather than waders although obviously good condition sphagnum bog will benefit both. 

In reply to UKC/UKH Articles: I know I am going to get plenty of dislikes for my post but I am not sure why this is on UKC. OK I get there is a tenuous link to climbing. However, if we have to have something on heather burning then I would have said an article titled"Is it time to end burning on Grouse Moors?" would have been better. Also, the suggested alternative is not without controversy. There has been some really interesting work recently on the benefits of cutting down woodland to restore peatland moors. Maybe in 50 years there will be an article on UKC saying "Its time to end tree planting on former upland moorland"

 toad 07 Apr 2021
In reply to Martin Haworth:

It's more than a tenuous link to UKHillwalking, though. It's fairly central to the moorland walking experience I think people forget that it exists!

 toad 07 Apr 2021
In reply to Jakey4060:

yeah, I think you probably need to define "independent". There are a lot of people here who have worked on a variety of upland research programmes, I'm not seeing a lot in there that ISN'T based on science!

I'm guessing Moorland assoc / GWCT?

 tjdodd 07 Apr 2021
In reply to Martin Haworth:

I still don't get why people respond to articles and forum posts saying they have nothing to do with climbing so why are they on UKC.  Many articles and the forum are shared across UKC and UKH.  So it is not just about climbing.  I suspect many if not most people on UKC/UKH are hillwalkers and do not climb.

With respect to this article, I think it has huge importance to both climbers and hillwalkers.  Many of the areas I climb in are in or border grouse moors.  So that provides a direct link to interest in the article.  More broadly I am interested (as I am sure many other climbers are) in environmental and land management issues including burning on grouse moors.

I thought it was a very interesting article but would welcome hearing alternative views on grouse moor burning to further my understanding on the topic.

In reply to Martin Haworth:

I'm quite surprised people don't think this has a link to climbing, perhaps this just highlights me being a bit grit centric but I spend a lot if time climbing on managed grouse moorland and you'd need some pretty massive blinkers not to notice the affect of burning on the landscape! 

 Myr 07 Apr 2021
In reply to Bulls Crack:

> As an example the moors above Hebden Bridge might benefit being managed more  for flood risk rather than waders although obviously good condition sphagnum bog will benefit both. 

Peatland restoration is a bit of a win-win for upland breeding wader conservation and flood risk. Dunlin, golden plover and curlew are increasing on the massive blanket bog restoration area on RSPB Dove Stone, bucking the national trend.

In reply to ebdon:

On reflection the link to climbing is more than tenuous, so perhaps the first couple of sentences of my response were wrong. I still stick with the main point of my response which is that I don’t think it was a great article and I would have preferred a more balanced article. Is this a one off or are we going to get responses from other interested parties and academics?

In reply to Bulls Crack:

> As an example the moors above Hebden Bridge might benefit being managed more  for flood risk rather than waders although obviously good condition sphagnum bog will benefit both. 

An interesting read on the negative effects of grouse moor management on the communities of the Calder Valley -
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/dec/29/deluge-farmers-flood-grouse-moor-drain-land

In reply to Martin Haworth:

It depends on what climbing you do and where. Perhaps muirburn directly affects that for some so on that point I’d challenge your “tenuous link” comment. 

In reply to Martin Haworth:

I agree. It us completely one sided with no attempt to understand, let alone engage with, estates of this sort to find a mutual solution.

The bit about Irn Bru and Ben Nevis is a catchy soundbite to draw attention to the financial issue. But, the maths of that comment are pure bollocks. It leaves me wondering what else in the article is presented as fact that is, in fact, also bollocks.

It's a huge and important topic, but a long polemic such as this does not foster dialogue and resolution.

Post edited at 01:36
 Blanche DuBois 08 Apr 2021
In reply to Jakey4060:

>  I have worked in the industry for a long time and am part of an organisation that spends a lot of money on independent research into Grouse Moors.

Research funded by an organization with a commercial interest in the results is *not* independent - we learned that the hard way with "research" funded by the tobacco industry and by that funded by the oil industry.  This "research" smacks of being the same ilk.

> It angers me when such bias articles are written then believed at face-value by its readers. I've been a UKC member for many years and this is a political topic that should not be on here. 

So, even though it's of direct interest to climbers and hikers, it shouldn't be on here??? 

The reason you're angry is that in the unlikely event of these sorts of activities being curbed they might impact on you financially.  That's unfortunate, but what if we kept doing an activity, no matter how bad, purely for the profit it generates?  Admittedly this is what tends to happen in many cases (re: tobacco and oil above) - but there are many examples where the better option has been found, to (almost)  everyone's betterment.  There's a strong case to made for that here.

 wbo2 08 Apr 2021
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

Perhaps it's time for those complaining the article is imbalanced to write a factual list of why Heather burning for grouse moors is a good thing .  Emphasis on factual

Bonus points for listing 5 benefits of poisoning raptors.

 Doug 08 Apr 2021
In reply to wbo2:

I suspect there may be an argument  for small scale, well controlled, burning of heath on dry, mineral soils but not for burning on peaty soils & definitely not for blanket bog.

In reply to nickinscottishmountains:

I don't think there is any argument that will persuade most estates. 

You could rewild, forest, then hunt wild Black grouse where you might bag 1 or 2 a day. But they want bragging rights, however many dozen reared birds pushed towards them stood waiting.

Financially many run a loss, not excessive so they cover it, as part of the prestige of owning an estate. Most probably balance the loss against other profitable businesses. 

But I wouldn't just target large private estates, plenty land belonging to so called charities isn't much better. Upland sheep farming is on a par with grouse moors too. 

In reply to nickinscottishmountains

> The bit about Irn Bru and Ben Nevis is a catchy soundbite to draw attention to the financial issue. But, the maths of that comment are pure bollocks. 

0.02% of 4400ft = 11 inches 

So sounds about right by height.

 mhay 08 Apr 2021
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

UK Climbing hosting a ‘debate’ on grouse shooting is welcome. Unfortunately, those opposed to grouse shooting such as the author of this article get facts wrong. Moorland accounts for between 6-7% of land – not all of it intensively managed for grouse shooting. Of that, moor managers may burn between 5-10% of their own patch in any given year. Furthermore, skilled muirburn does not burn peat. It burns redundant heather leaving the peat intact. Also, latest science shows that heather burning in the right place at the right time can have a positive effect on carbon capture.

Everyone can have their own opinion, just not their own facts.

Post edited at 10:26
In reply to mhay:

If you are converting carbon in a solid form into a gas by burning it, there is no carbon capture. 

In reply to mhay:

I know that is topical and fashionable to frame everything in terms of carbon and climate change, but I would have thought that the habitat destruction, lack of biodiversity, species persecution and landscape visual degradation should make a big enough case for the end of intensive grouse moor management anyway.

In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

The article suggests the only reason for the burning is to improve grouse habitat (and presumably shooting profits), but I'm not convinced; I used to live in the New Forest, which has heather moorland but no grouse, and the forestry commission regularly burns the heather.

In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

As I had it open on my computer anyway I have just done some sums using CEH's land cover map (LCM2015), which is probably the most detailed land cover map for Scotland (would be interesting to compare with European space agency CORINE Mapping but I don't have time)

Anyway 26.5% of Scotland  (mainland, above high tide line only) is classed as Heather  (9.3% heather and 17.2% heather grassland). How much of this is managed for grouse I couldnt say, but presumably most of it otherwise it would be bog (8%)

Anyway these figures seem to support the article rather than mhay's numbers. But perhaps I am missing an important distinction between land that is naturally heather and managed heather moorland?

 Denning76 08 Apr 2021
In reply to Jakey4060:

A lot of general disagreement, but not a lot of substance. Given that you are in a position to do so, would you mind providing some so that we can hear both sides?

 mondite 09 Apr 2021
In reply to mhay:

> Everyone can have their own opinion, just not their own facts.

So you will provide those facts rather than just stating "latest science"?

There seems to be a trend for those attacking the article to be announcing how it is wrong without actually providing the supporting case.

 toad 09 Apr 2021
In reply to mondite:

I think one of their problems is that in the last 20 years there has been a real increase in "science" and the evidence is coming from a variety of sources, not just conservation, who are easy (for the shooting lobby) to dismiss.

The flood mitigation aspect is providing as the pr folks say "unfavourable optics" almost every year - flooding whole communities in as it happens live news feed. Then there are the drinking water protection issues - less visible, but carbon discolouration from managed grouse moors has upset a lot of very big companies, because its their shareholders dividend is being used to treat drinking water to strip out the brown colouring and the suspended eroded peat, which in many cases is contaminated with heavy metals etc. Then there is the climate change mitigation role of healthy peatland- barely considered a couple of decades ago, but now front and centre of government policy - something needs to be seen to be done, and tweed is starting to become a less effective camouflage in  Westminster than it used to be - even though our present govt would dearly like the problem to go away, dealing with climate change isn't going anywhere!

And the conservation land owners like the national trust have pr problems of their own - the protected species,  environmental science and the animal welfare groups have got organised and vociferous, so the likes of NT/NTS have much less incentive to maintain the status quo - Old tenancies are expiring, raptor persecution is getting a LOT of media coverage and these bodies cannot be seen to be allying with the, ahem, "traditional" land managers because it's starting to cost them both revenue and goodwill.

Won't be anytime very soon, but if my money (ha!!) was in upland land holdings, I'd be at least considering  diversifying my portfolio.

 mondite 09 Apr 2021
In reply to toad:

> Won't be anytime very soon, but if my money (ha!!) was in upland land holdings, I'd be at least considering  diversifying my portfolio.

Yes I think it is going to be problematic for them as it becomes clearer just how many externalities they have and people start asking why everyone should be bearing those costs .

Wonder if Jakey4060 will be back to enlighten us?

Post edited at 14:19
 atyson1 09 Apr 2021
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

a few questions as not clear to my mind from the article or the follow on comments:

What is the real benifit of the current use, there seems to be very different figures quoted by all sides. Has a genuinely independent party done a holistic financial review on the overall economic benifits/losses? This is not a leading question I genuinely dont know the answer, nor have had time to google this in detail so apologies if already easily obtainable.

Would the moors naturally change to the desired use if left to their own devices, if not who would be best placed to pay/fund/manage the conversion of the moors to an alternative use (i'm not clear that there is a consensus on the best alternative use, but hypothetically speaking). What are the indications of whole life costs of the different uses?

Are there commercial benifits (i.e. above the current benifits/losses availble in its current use) from the alternative uses, or is this mainly ecological / hydrological etc benifit (which again I am not undermining as this is probably the most valuable just interested if this has been reviewed), or are these commercial benifits offset with running costs etc?

Have studies been undertaken to understand what happens if management of the current v's  alternative use increases/decreases the likelyhood of large scale issues (e.g. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/marsden-moor-estate/features/moorland-fire-at-marsden-moor). What is the cost (financially and environmentally) if these sort of issues happen, who picks up the bill.

To be clear I dont have strong views on this and I cannot prefess to understand the science data involved in it all but I come from a somewhat commercial (boo!) background so just wondering if case studies have been undertaken to assess the above, as to me if hard data was available on the pro's and cons it would make some of the hypothetical argument points fall away somewhat. As an aside just because the answers to any of the above may increase / decrease costs I'm not saying they should not be implemented, but often easier to justify someting if there is an understood commercial benifit in the first instance.

Although now I have typed the above my mind is immiately saying why dont I just go and find out instead of being lazy and asking others, as such feel free to say just that

 atyson1 09 Apr 2021
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

a few questions as not clear to my mind from the article or the follow on comments:

What is the real benifit of the current use, there seems to be very different figures quoted by all sides. Has a genuinely independent party done a holistic financial review on the overall economic benifits/losses? This is not a leading question I genuinely dont know the answer, nor have had time to google this in detail so apologies if already easily obtainable.

Would the moors naturally change to the desired use if left to their own devices, if not who would be best placed to pay/fund/manage the conversion of the moors to an alternative use (i'm not clear that there is a consensus on the best alternative use, but hypothetically speaking). What are the indications of whole life costs of the different uses?

Are there commercial benifits (i.e. above the current benifits/losses availble in its current use) from the alternative uses, or is this mainly ecological / hydrological etc benifit (which again I am not undermining as this is probably the most valuable just interested if this has been reviewed), or are these commercial benifits offset with running costs etc?

Have studies been undertaken to understand what happens if management of the current v's  alternative use increases/decreases the likelyhood of large scale issues (e.g. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/marsden-moor-estate/features/moorland-fire-at-marsden-moor). What is the cost (financially and environmentally) if these sort of issues happen, who picks up the bill.

To be clear I dont have strong views on this and I cannot profess to understand the science data involved in it all but I come from a somewhat commercial (boo!) background so just wondering if case studies have been undertaken to assess the above, as to me if hard data was available on the pro's and cons it would make some of the hypothetical argument points fall away somewhat. As an aside just because the answers to any of the above may increase / decrease costs I'm not saying they should not be implemented, but often easier to justify someting if there is an understood commercial benifit in the first instance.

Although now I have typed the above my mind is immiately saying why dont I just go and find out instead of being lazy and asking others, as such feel free to say just that

In reply to atyson1:

I cant comment in many of the points raised as it's not somthing I know much about, but in terms of flood risk (which I know a little about) i think the jury is very much in. Many national bodies like SEPA and natural England have published documents stating how heavily managed grouse moorland can increase flood risk, backed up by studies from organisations such as the royal society.  This is now reflected in mitigation against such land uses in pretty much any recent catchment management or flood risk plan by local planning authorise that you may care to read.

The game industry state that they are undertaking work to block drains and decrease runoff to be fair to them. However such schemes appear very thin on the ground, do not incorporate best practice in catchment management and are generally dwarfed by schemes undertaken in moorland areas where game shooting is not the primary land use.

 knowall 09 Apr 2021
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

Not to mention stupid landowners in the LDNP who start a "controlled burn" on their land in 60 mph winds (Banna Fell).

 atyson1 09 Apr 2021
In reply to ebdon:

Thats a good point. So SUDS cost a fortune and the benifit of ofsetting this could be justifiably quantified in the public eye as a tangible benifit of responsible moor management also. Interesting, thanks for responding 

 mondite 09 Apr 2021
In reply to atyson1:

> What is the real benifit of the current use, there seems to be very different figures quoted by all sides. Has a genuinely independent party done a holistic financial review on the overall economic benifits/losses?

What is your definition of "genuinely independent" and also "real benefit"? There have been multiple studies looking at individual aspects none of which come out overly in favour of the grouse moors. The werrity review scratched at the surface but overall there has been limited review across the board that everyone would agree was independent.

> Would the moors naturally change to the desired use if left to their own devices, if not who would be best placed to pay/fund/manage the conversion of the moors to an alternative use

There is no "desired use" as such but multiple suggestions which will vary depending on the specific area. For example some areas could support wildlife tourism (which already outranks grouse moors in returns), some could support forestry and others outdoors pursuits such as mountain biking etc (look at the 7 stanes for something where there would be the potential to replicate in at least one place).

There are also cases where the interest in what replaces it is somewhat limited beyond it doing less damage to those in the local areas.

You are also missing the current economic cost of supporting the grouse moors. They are provided with subsidies. So we are already paying direct subsidies but there are also all the externalities which are being picked up by society in general which are increasingly being highlighted.

>  but often easier to justify someting if there is an understood commercial benifit in the first instance.

A commercial benefit to whom? Grouse moors are fairly unusual in that even for those who benefit for them the economic benefit is unclear and in several cases it seems to be most a social status symbol.

The primary issue with the moors is the "commercial benefit" is unclear but the externalised costs are becoming increasingly clear.

Whether that is the routine persecution of raptors (just look up the amazing failure rate of tags) which, if you are concerned about costs, will be costing the taxpayer probably half a million or more in the form of the guaranteed to fail Southern Hen harrier reintroduction programme (unfortunately they havent figured how to train the birds to avoid grouse moors when they are doing their youthful journeys) or in terms of runoff from the moors causing flooding.

 Mike Peacock 10 Apr 2021
In reply to mhay:

> Also, latest science shows that heather burning in the right place at the right time can have a positive effect on carbon capture.

Care to link to a study to support that?

In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

This suggests that tree planting on moorland is not the answer. Just let the moors be probably best.

https://www.facebook.com/photo?fbid=10158168538250784&set=gm.1099030223950989

 Myr 10 Apr 2021
In reply to Robert Durran:

> This suggests that tree planting on moorland is not the answer. Just let the moors be probably best.

Depends on the context, tree species and the goal. 

In this study, there wasn't a decline in soil C for pine, but there was for birch. For most of the study sites, there was no change in overall ecosystem C. Also the study was only carried out over 39 years, after which increases in above-ground C might outweigh losses in soil C. It's also worth noting that in this study the soil C comparison was between planted woodland and unburned heather moorland; muirburn reduces the organic matter content of peat soils.

So tree planting on moorland or other soils with high organic matter isn't necessarily a carbon sequestration silver bullet, at least for the first few decades. But we are in a biodiversity crisis as well as a climate crisis. The biodiversity arguments for restoring moorland to a more natural mix of woodland, scrub, bog and heath, supporting more of our native upland species, still remain.

In reply to Myr:

> The biodiversity arguments for restoring moorland to a more natural mix of woodland, scrub, bog and heath, supporting more of our native upland species, still remain.

Yes, when I said let moors be, I meant without muirburn and letting them regenerate into the mix you suggest.

 gaz.marshall 10 Apr 2021
In reply to Robert Durran:

Woodland creation through natural regeneration is the way.

 atyson1 10 Apr 2021
In reply to mondite:

Thanks for responding.

I think you possibly took some of my points as in favour of the current use. This was not my intent, rather to try from an on the fence perspective to establish if there were eaily obainable facts (with a commercial / financial bias as noted). As such the points you raise are useful in clarifying some of the areas for me.

In answer to specific points:

Yes I meant independent of percieved conficts of interest i.e. linked to shooting or other lobbying groups.

By desired use, I meant converting from current into whatever is different to current. I assume this would not be the same use, therefore would there be cost/time/effort involved in this change?

"You are also missing the current economic cost of supporting the grouse moors", I agree I am not clear on this, this was the reason for asking if this was currently quantified and visiible?

"A commercial benefit to whom?" I was thinking commercial benifit generally, mainly to the public purse, but this could also be a wider added value i.e. recreational benifit, carbon capture, air quality, flooding improvements etc. As most things have tangible or intangible benifits and it is difficult to implement change to someting unless the benifits of this are known. In my simple minded way my gist was who pays for the use and maintenance currently and who would pay for change and maintance if different, are the current/revised use benifits sufficent to offset this cost? Pros and cons etc etc.

Yes I think the raptor points and the flooding points are very valid as they have both a significant environmental value, but also a genuine monetary value as you note. Its these sorts of things that to me seem to be missing a full comparison in most of the argument pieces for and against I have seen.

Again thanks for the info and taking the time to respond, all good food for thought

 petellis 16 Apr 2021
In reply to UKC/UKH Articles:

Can anybody tell me what the moors would look like if they were not managed by burning?  How does it remain a peat environment?

My understanding is that if it was just "left" if would go to birch trees and then forest?

I like the heather moors, mainly out of nostalgia for the times I have spent on them, butI don't like what they are or what they represent and I am really curios how they will change.  Ilkley Moor is an interesting one to watch.  The council stopped the grouse shooting lease a few years back and the sheep stocking levels are very low these days so it will be interesting to see how it looks as time goes past.  

 ScraggyGoat 21:04 Tue
 Myr 21:45 Tue
In reply to petellis:

Peat is formed when vegetation decomposes incompletely due to waterlogging. This happens when the water table is permanently at or near the ground surface, caused by high rainfall or by geological features. For large areas of the north and west of the UK, peatland of one sort or other would be the natural land cover because rainfall is so high. 

So if modification of the land by man ceased, much of our uplands would remain as peatland. Other large swathes of our uplands, where the rainfall is too low or the land too steep to form peat, would return to woodland, scrub or heath. We'd probably expect a mosaic of all of these habitat types, as you find in much of upland Scandinavia.

Peatland is a stable state given particular climatic and geomorphological conditions, because most tree species cannot tolerate permanently waterlogged soil. But damaged peatlands - where the water table has been lowered by drainage, as in much of the UK uplands - can be invaded by trees. This could be short term (until the drains block naturally) or long term (if trees prevent the soil from waterlogging). So in damaged peatland areas (i.e. much of the UK uplands) it's important to rewet peatlands at the same time as removing suppression of woodland regeneration, otherwise damaged peatlands will be further degraded.

 Doug 09:20 Wed
In reply to Myr:

There's a long history of trying to deduce what the vegetation of Europe would be if we stopped managing the landscape including for Scotland by McVean & Ratcliffe in their book on the Scottish Highlands. More recent attempts include a map of Europe published in the early 2000s which I've used for my work - see

https://is.muni.cz/el/1431/podzim2012/Bi9420/um/Bohn_etal2004_Map-Nat-Veg-Europe.pdf

https://www.synbiosys.alterra.nl/eurovegmap/

The British part of the map was based on work by John Rodwell (editor of the classic series 'British Plant Communities')

In reply to petellis:

I'd always sort of presumed they would look like the kinder plateau, where its fenced off to keep grazing animals out and is unburnt (although I know its still managed to some degree). I.e a variety of small trees, shrubs, grasses and bog rather than blanket heather. No idea if this is correct though

In reply to ebdon:

> The game industry state that they are undertaking work to block drains and decrease runoff to be fair to them. 

They also say raptor persecution is a terribly bad thing and they'd never, ever dream of doing anything like that....


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