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Moorland burning

From Dave H

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Found this interesting article from the RSPB about the damage moorland burning does, and the subsequent effect on flooding in the surrounding areas. It specifically talks about our very own Walshaw Estate.

From Barry Mills

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

There is probably some merit to this campaign, but like so many local campaigns it is horribly one-sided. Too many people are ready to accept any criticism of "rich landowners" as hard fact, without any real evidence. Lots of people who have read a few articles on the internet seem to think they have greater expertise than the Environment Agency, who are full time professionals in the field.

The idea that we are "subsidising flooding" is ludicrously simplistic. The settlement between the EA and Walshaw estate was very complex, and involved huge investment by the landowners in work that is for the public good and not their own. All of that is conveniently ignored as the local bandwagoneers jump on any opportunity to bash the perceived "rich".

I'm not saying the EA have got this right. But the simplistic and biased approach of many campaigners is, to my eyes, completely undermining their credibility.

From John Smithson

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Interesting response to the RSPB article from Barry Mills; it doesn't appear to me to be either 'simplistic or biased'. The article is based on RSPB research and the Environment Agency's own evidence. I'll take validated research and evidence ahead of 'simplistic or biased' any day of the week.

Perhaps Barry could point me in the direction of research or evidence to counter the claims made by RSPB about moorland burning. Equally, it would be useful to have sight of the agreement between the Walshaw Estate and the Environment Agency so the we can get a full picture of the works involved. Any idea where we can see this?

From Graham Barker

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

I don't think Barry is criticising the RSPB. I assume he means campaigners whose views are informed more by ideology than fact. We all like to think we know and care about the countryside but few of us have actual expertise in what is for the most part a complex working environment.

After the Somerset floods a worry has got to be that the people in the EA who do know their stuff are themselves an endangered species. Too many sweeping decisions are taken by office-bound managers susceptible to political and economic pressure, and the Walshaw estate agreement may be one of those.

But even if we did have full access to the agreement, how many of us would be qualified to say it was good, bad or indifferent? Probably not those who would make the loudest noises, and I think that's what Barry is getting at. In our rush to become a knowledge economy, practical knowledge about the ground beneath our feet seems to have been left behind.

From Andy M

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

I'd just like to point out that it's Natural England who are the relevant experts/statutory body with whom the estate has a managment agreement - not the Environment Agency.

From Andrew B

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

It would be very much in the spirit of the past 20 years or so of neo-liberal 'welfare for the rich' policies if Natural England were effectively a quango designed to siphon public funds to the already wealthy.

Rather like the Common Agricultural Policy siphoning £1,000,000.00 over ten years to Ian Duncan Smiths family farm.

From John Smithson

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

I agree with Graham Barker that there is a difference between fact and opinion/ideology, hence my request for references to research which counters the RSPB position. Still waiting. Regarding the agreement between the Walshaw Estate and Natural England, given that public money has been used for a claimed public good, it seems to me that the public should be told what is in the agreement.

From Anthony Rae

Friday, 4 April 2014

I really can't see the basis for Barry Mill's response to the posting about the RSPB article. This campaign he says 'is horribly one-sided. Too many people are ready to accept any criticism of "rich landowners" as hard fact, without any real evidence.' Well, the RSPB isn't just anybody and as John Smithson points out, this characterisation of their measured account, which is indeed supported by evidence, is unfair.

'The idea that we are "subsidising flooding" is ludicrously simplistic', Mr Mills says. As it happens the RSPB article doesn't actually make that claim, but the connection between what happens on our Uplands and (flooding) down in the Valley Bottoms is worth thinking about, which is what the Treesponsibility 'Understanding the Hebden Water catchment' report report thoughtfully does. Finally he introduces the spurious issue of 'bashing the rich'. Since I suppose you will need to be reasonably wealthy to own a grouse moor, this would seem to rule out any criticism of estate management practices however justified.

Instead we should grateful that RSPB has chosen to challenge the insufficiently explained decision of Natural England to abandon their prosecution of Walshaw Moor estate for the alleged damage they caused by burning of the blanket bog. Both RSPB and local campaigners have recognised that this moorland, with its status under both EU Birds and Habitats directives, is a critical environment we all have a responsibility to protect, and they deserve our support in upholding those designations and ensuring public money is properly spent - for the benefit of the upland environment and the communities in their catchment.

From George Murphy

Friday, 4 April 2014

I happened upon this issue a few days before the 2012 flood and wrote to Heb Web asking for comments from those with a deeper understanding of the science to comment. It's interesting to reread those responses now, as the subsequent flooding led to a huge public debate and a Glorious 12th Ban the Burn March.

I attended one of the public forums and was pleased to see farmers and members of the public were involved - minds weren't closed and arguments were made with reference to research as well as concern for the future. My own contribution to the event was a very unscientific Monologue about a Bog. But the arts(!) have their place and perhaps this helped to conserve a creature from local folk lore? I see there are boggarts marked on the recently published map for the big bike race!

To me, the politics of the issue - the dropped court case and the subsequent large pay out to the landowner - were disturbing, especially as the government minister involved was also a large landowner. The item I didn't know about at the time was the rise in the payments we all now contribute for increased water purification, caused apparently by disturbance to peat bogs and other land management activity.

It was interesting to watch some of these arguments being rerun during the debates about the Somerset levels. Interesting too that the above minister (since removed from office) now criticises the case for river dredging as the main tactic for avoiding flooding and supports arguments made by the green and the scientific lobbies that farming and land management practices have to change.

Hopefully the scientific, social and animal welfare issues will be aired fully at European level in response to the action by the RSPB.

Previously, on the HebWeb

HebWeb News: Ban The Burn campaigners mop up (Feb 2014)

HebWeb News: Ban the Burn - Aug, 2012

HebWeb News: Ban the Burn campaign press European Commission to act on moorland burning - Jan, 2013

HebWeb News: The Floods of July 2012

HebWeb News: The Floods of June 2012

Understanding the Hebden Water Catchment (Treesponsibility)

Peat bog restoration work holds back water, scientists say (New Internationalist)

Money's no object – to creating floods

Calling the Shots: The power and privilegeof the grouse-shooting elite (Animal Aid)

Natural England Twenty five year burning consent document