“Scientific research” not included as a licensable activity in new heather burning legislation

This mossaic effect is created by the small patch burning method, and creates the ideal habitat for

This mossaic effect is created by the small patch burning method, and creates the ideal habitat for certain ground nesting bird species, with taller unburnt blocks to use as cover and fresh new shoots providing food Credit: Chris Strickland/Getty - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

“Long-term environmental/climate change research is underway in our uplands that requires experimental burning; these studies are now under threat.”

The heather is burnt to encourage growth of fresh, tasty and nutritionally dense new buds and shoots

The heather is burnt to encourage growth of fresh, tasty and nutritionally dense new buds and shoots, and also to prevent wild fires - old, dry heather that has not been burnt is the perfect fuel Credit: BethAmber/Getty - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

For a brilliantly comprehensive explanation and overview of heather/vegetation burning, the reasons it is done, how it is done, and who else other than shooters/grouse moor managers use burning as a management tool (we’ll give you a hint, one of them is the RSPB!), please click here.

Press release from BASC

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) has described the exclusion of ‘scientific research’ as a licensable activity within the newly published regulations for vegetation burning on protected blanket bog as ‘disappointing’ and one that threatens the future of on-going studies.

Defra’s announcement to bring forward legislation for heather burning came with the reassurance that licences for specific reasons would be available. Several reasons have been listed in the published Heather and Grass Burning (England) Regulations 2021, but scientific research is not currently included.

Gareth Dockerty, BASC’s uplands officer, said: “It is disappointing that scientific research has not been listed alongside other measures, such as conservation, enhancement and wildfire management, as a valid reason to apply for a licence to undertake vegetation burning.

“Long-term environmental and climate change research is currently underway in our uplands that requires various levels of experimental burning. With no option to obtain a licence the future of this research and other studies are now under threat.

“As highlighted by the government peatlands are the UK’s rainforests, the regulation must allow scientific research to continue to ensure their management policies are based on comprehensive and robust evidence.”