The environmentally damaging consequences of setting fire to upland heather moorlands as part of the routine ‘management’ for grouse shooting are well documented, with some of these fires leading to increased carbon emissions, increased flood risk, increased air pollution and threats to other ecosystem services.
With the intensification of grouse moor management in some areas of Scotland comes an increase in the extent and intensity of rotational heather burning. These fires have even been lit on areas of deep peat (forbidden by the voluntary Muirburn Code, which many land managers seem to simply ignore) causing damage to protected blanket bog habitat – in fact 40% of the area of land burned for grouse moor management in Scotland is on deep peat (see here).
In November 2020, in response to the Werritty Review on grouse moor management, then Environment Minister Mairi Gougeon announced there would be a statutory ban on burning on peatland except under licence for strictly limited purposes such as habitat restoration. She also said that the Government would revisit the definition of ‘peatland’ and consider whether a tighter and stricter definition was required.
This was an excellent result and we are now all waiting to see the election results in May in the hope that the new Scottish Government can get on with these and other commitments it made, notably the introduction of a licensing scheme for grouse shooting.
Meanwhile, the horror of grouse moor burning continues apace. These photographs were taken four days ago on a grouse shooting estate in the Angus Glens on 1st April 2021.
I would encourage Scottish readers to send a copy of the photo of the lizard with its singed tail and the photo of the devastated moorland habitat to your local political candidate and ask them whether they support this kind of environmental Armageddon.