Dear Tony Juniper CBE,
Congratulations on your appointment as Chair of Natural England. I very much admire and respect your work as one of the country’s leading environmental campaigner and writer. I must admit however I am a bit cynical of Michael Gove’s motives.
I appreciate your to-do list will be very long but I hope you do find the time to consider the disturbing practice of heather burning on moors of Northern England especially here on the North York Moors. Hardly a day has gone by this winter without some plume of smoke rising from the skyline and spreading across the moors. Huge swathes of heather have been burn to maximise the grouse available for shooting.
I am sure you are aware of the report by the University of Leeds which found that burning significantly alters the hydrology of the moors, lowering the water table depth thereby drying out and degrading the peat, releasing carbon into the atmosphere and stored pollutants, such as heavy metals into the river systems and contributing to flooding downstream. There is an apathy if the smoke causes a public nuisance. Last month I had to cycle through a cloud of smoke and the environmental health officer is investigating smoke shrouding the town of Guisborough in December. There is a big risk that a moor fire will get out of control. Recently 25 hectares of moorland were “accidentally” burnt near Hutton-le-Hole. This is not accidental, it is shear negligence. And all the while, we, the tax payers are effectively subsidising the “sport”, although I appreciate shooting itself isn’t directly subsidised, moorland is eligible for the agricultural subsidy.
I took the photo this morning and shows burning on Kempswithen on Kildale moor. But burning will soon be over for another season. Grouse will be soon nesting and rearing this autumn’s targets.
I wish you all the best and every success in your new post.