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Ban the Burn

Friday, 3 August 2012

This is a call out for help from Treesponsibility, to anyone who is free on Sunday August 12th.

Treesponsibility are a climate action group with an ambition to bring about ecological restoration in the Calder catchment. We want to make our valley more resilient to the extreme weather events which will become increasingly frequent in the years to come.

Ban the Burn

The July 2012 floods in the Upper Calder Valley have highlighted the urgency of this task. Generally we work towards our ambition by doing practical tree-planting work, climate awareness education and fund-raising for catchment management projects (see Treesponsibility website), but sometimes we have to intervene to stop bad stuff.

We have recently become aware of developments in the Calder Valley which run completely against all we have been trying to do over the years, so we find ourselves in the middle of what could be quite a high profile campaign....

Here is the story in a nutshell.

Several years ago (not long after Treesponsibility had finished their first big site at Midgelden) Lord Saville sold his Walshaw Moor estate to Richard Bannister, a local businessman. The moor is an SSSI and it is in the South Pennine Moors Special Area of Conservation. Its location at the head of Hebden Water makes it of vital importance for the people of Hebden Bridge – in order to minimize the town's flood risk we need the area to be managed to promote healthy blanket bog with spagnum moss to act as a sponge in heavy rainfall events.

What happened over the next few years was the exact opposite – unconsented tracks, extensive drainage, and burning on blanket bog.

Scene change with us now to the offices of Natural England where, over the same period of time, people were becoming increasingly aware of the "ecosystems services" provided by blanket bogs (carbon absorption, "making space for water", and providing valuable habitats).

This inevitably led the quango into conflict with landowners who primarily wanted to manage their moorlands for grouse. Anyway, to cut a long story short, Natural England took Walshaw Moor Estate to court citing 43 breaches of environmental regulations, and investing over £1 million pounds in the case.

The plot thickens. The case came to court, but was abruptly dropped (as was a Public Inquiry into burning at Walshaw). (For more information type Wuthering Moors into the search engine of Mark Avery's blog or see this page on George Monbiot's website). The official line was that the case had been dropped because an agreement had been reached which would provide improved protection for Walshaw Moor.

It is extraordinarily hard to see how this squares with the "Consent" which they subsequently signed with the landowner giving permission to carry out burning activities on active blanket bog.

To add insult to injury, it is now in the public domain that the landowner will receive "Higher Level Stewardship" totalling £2,504,668.08. (That's about 5 times as much as is in the Calder Valley flood recovery fund!).

On August 12th (the "Glorious Twelfth" marking the official start of the grouse-shooting season) Treesponsibility are planning a "BAN THE BURN" mass protest Walk to Walshaw Estate, leaving from Hebden Bridge at 9.30 am. (See leaflet).

We are uniquely well-placed to bring the issue to national attention at the moment because we are based in Hebden Bridge which has been in the national news because of the floods.

Our "demand" is a total ban on burning on blanket bogs, hopefully an achievable objective. Key messages will be:- ·

  • In order to minimize our town's flood risk we need the catchment to be managed to promote healthy blanket bog
  • The government is not protecting the country's carbon sinks. (Walshaw is not an isolated case and currently damaged UK peatlands are releasing almost 3.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent each year (more than all the households in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Leeds).
  • It is a scandal that the Public Inquiry into Grouse Moor burning was brought to a halt before the scientific evidence could be presented.
  • The grouse-shooting Minister for Wildlife Protection has a huge potential conflict of interest

Treesponsibility are planning a very mellow, family friendly event to attract the general public. (They would like to get at least a hundred people to make an impact). They will be sticking to public footpaths, and there will be a shorter route accessible by public transport.

Blake Dean hoste has been bookedl for Saturday and Sunday nights, and space is also available in the Hebden Hostel. Please let Treesponsibility know as soon as possible if you want to come and stay.

The walk will be followed by a Campaign Launch and meal in the Trades Club from 5pm.

As well as people just turning up, there are "volunteer opportunities" for several roles - someone to make a film, some people to do a stall, people to electronically distribute our event leaflet and help with publicity,people to help cook on Saturday and Sunday, musicians to play at the Trades Club after the speakers,drivers with available vehicles (Saturday and Sunday).

If you are interested in any of the above, please get in touch as soon as possible, and please also email us if you intend to come at treesponsibility@yahoo.co.uk

Thanks to Treesponsibility for this item


See also:

Guardian Northerner: "National campaign against moorland bog-burning to launch as grouse-shooting begins. Residents of Hebden Bridge, devastated by moorland run-off in this summer's floods, join environmental campaigners to set up Ban the Burn."

Ban the Burn leaflet (pdf)

HebWeb Forum threads on the floods and moorland management.

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