A new scientific study by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) which indicates that many daily activities carried out on grouse moorlands produce a wide range of public goods, including increasing biodiversity and saving endangered species, climate change mitigation and risk reduction. of a forest fire.
The study looked at the work done by regional heathland groups on managed heathland – such as controlled burns, peatland rewetting and predation management – and was analyzed against societal wants and needs. , as expressed by the objectives of the government’s 25-year environmental plan. (25YEP).
The conclusion was that heathland ecosystems managed for grouse hunting provide a net gain to society according to the specifications set by Defra.
The likely benefits of alternative land uses that are often promoted as alternatives to grouse barrens, such as reseeding, commercial forestry, energy production and agricultural intensification, were also compared in the study.
Against the targets set by 25YEP, alternatives such as reseeding – especially when it involves the reintroduction of new species and the complete cessation of management practices – and commercial timber have performed poorly.
The report authors stressed that it is important to keep in mind that some of the alternative uses – such as managed or “abandoned” reseeding – have received very little research on their contribution to public goods or to the specific objectives of 25YEP.
This provides a risky basis for the policy, critics added, as some of the practices set out in the government strategy have been used for years by people who already know and work the moors.
Henrietta Appleton, co-author of the study, said: “It must be risky to base policy on the assumption that rewilding results are better than grouse barren management.”
And as the glorious twelfth rolls around the national calendar once again, the 25 YEP goals against which the value of grouse hunting has been weighed include clean air, clean abundant water, flora and thriving wildlife, reduced risk of damage from environmental hazards (including floods, wildfires, and tick-borne diseases), and climate change adaptation and mitigation.
Over the last 100 years the demands placed on heathland in the UK have changed as people have realized the important role they play in carbon storage, water storage, and the benefits they offer the public in terms of access to the outdoors and for recreation. . In the post-war years, the highlands were drained to maximize their agricultural and forestry potential.
But in recent decades, moorland managers and landowners have carried out work including restoring peat, blocking drains, cutting and burning heather to mitigate wildfires and creating forests. ponds to help birds, mammals and insects thrive. Many of these actions – which began long before the government’s environmental plan existed – appear to be achieving the exact goals the plan aims to achieve.
Richard Bailey, coordinator of the Peak District Moorland Group and himself a conservation manager, explains how he started rewetting the moors three decades ago.
“I find it quite amusing that organizations and individuals use the term ‘rewetting’ as if it were a new process. When I started my career as a moorland warden three decades ago, Lindsay Waddell and I were already blocking the drainage intakes with wooden planks.
“We called them ‘bog flushes’ then, and their main purpose was to increase insect life to improve chick survival rates for all ground-nesting birds on the moors. So heathland managers were once again leading the way in nature recovery, diversity and heathland restoration.
The report concludes that heathland ecosystems, managed wisely and correctly, offer a net gain to society.
However, as recognized by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation as well as the Moorland Association, a problem is that the public does not realize and the wider environmental movement does not recognize this fact, which means that the moors grouse are often under appreciated and undervalued.
The Regional Groupings of the Landes believe that the reason for this is often due to the constant criticism to which the management of the moors is subject, whether it is attacks of burnt heather in the press and on social networks, harassment of game wardens as they go about their daily work, or simply negative attitudes towards grouse shooting as a whole.
To try to address this, BASC along with Countryside Learning and moorland groups in the North hosted 3,000 children on moorland in July for the Let’s Learn Moor outdoor class, covering topics such as species conservation, forest fire prevention, sheep shearing, mountain rescue, carbon capture, tick management and ground-nesting birds.