The government has announced plans to propose legislation to prevent the burning of heather and other vegetation in protected raised bog habitats. The new regulations prevent the burning of certain vegetation in areas with deep peat (over 40 cm deep) in an area of special scientific interest that is also a special conservation area or special protection area unless a license has been granted or the land is steep or rocky.
Rotary burning is used as a management tool for moorland and raised bogs. Land managers use controlled burning on heathland during the winter months, usually on a rotation of 8 to 12 years. There is agreement that the burning of vegetation on a raised bog damages the formation of the bog and the condition of the habitat. It makes it more difficult or impossible to restore these habitats to their natural state and restore their hydrology.
Restoring England’s peatlands is a government priority. It will help achieve zero net carbon emissions by 2050, as well as protect our valuable habitats and the biodiversity that support these habitats. The raised bog, a type of moorland, is a sensitive habitat of international importance. Great Britain has 13% of the world’s raised bog.
The government recognizes that unmanaged moorland is at risk of forest fires, which are the most damaging, and that these risks have increased due to climate change. Therefore, the government intends to work with landowners and managers to develop local plans to fight forest fires.
Dunlin, Copyright Glyn Sellors, from the Surfbirds Galleries
There will be special circumstances in which the ban does not apply, e.g. B. on steep land or when rubble makes up half of the land area. In addition, the Foreign Minister can also issue licenses for the burning of heather on raised bogs for the purpose of forest fire prevention, protection purposes or where land is inaccessible for cutting or mowing machines. These licenses can span multiple years to be aligned with coherent site management plans.
Environment Minister George Eustice said: Our peat bogs have great potential as a natural carbon sink, habitat protection, haven for rare wildlife and natural provider of water regulation. We would like to work with landowners to restore the natural hydrology of many of these locations through our new agricultural policy and to support our ambitions for the environment. The burning of heather in these locations makes it difficult to restore natural hydrology, which is why we are taking this step today.
Tony Juniper, Chairman of Natural England said: This is an extremely welcome announcement that will provide better protection for our globally important moors. Ceiling bog is an amazing habitat that offers significant environmental benefits, including carbon storage, a home for wonderful wildlife, clean drinking water, and flood control. Because of this, it is important that these systems are healthy with peat-forming species such as sphagnum moss that thrive in water-filled conditions. We will continue to work with Defra and land managers to help successfully implement these measures, including providing advice on good upland management and leading a new bog restoration grant program under the Nature for Climate program. This will provide funding for restoration work to be carried out on these precious ecosystems to ensure their restoration and protection for the benefit of present and future generations.
Today’s move is an important step towards meeting the government’s nature and climate goals, as well as part of the government’s 25-year environmental plan to bring 75% of the SSSI into favorable condition.
The government will set out further measures to protect England’s moors this year as part of a package of measures to protect England’s landscapes and nature-based solutions. The government’s £ 640 million Nature for Climate Fund is also raising funds to launch a bog restoration program over the next 5 years.
The legal instrument will be submitted to Parliament for approval before it enters into force.