New heather rules will “benefit wildlife”

New heather rules will “benefit wildlife”

29 September 2008

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United Kingdom — Tighter controls on heather and grass burning come into force in Wales this week.

 From October 1 new regulations are being put into practice which will see a shorter burning season.

 Landowners planning to burn heather and grass must also draw up management plans to ensure long-term benefits to agriculture and wildlife.

 The Countryside Council for Wales said the new Assembly Government rules would bring “positive” changes to the countryside.

 Jan Sherry, a CCW heathland ecologist, said: “It is crucial that burning is done in a well planned and controlled way.

 “Extensive random burns can be extremely damaging to wildlife, livestock and their pastures – and dangerous to people.

 “CCW looks forward to working with farmers, especially those who have Sites of Special Scientific Interest on their land, by providing advice before the burning season starts.”

 In both upland and lowland areas, the new burning seasons start on the same dates as before – but will end roughly two weeks earlier.

 In the uplands the season is now October 1 to March 31 (previously October 1 to April 15).

 The season traditionally starts a month later in the lowlands, on November 1, and will now end on March 15 (previously November 1 to March 31).

 The CCW believes the shorter burning season will lessen the risk of burns spreading out of control in dry weather.

 It could also benefit ground-nesting birds now known to be nesting earlier than in previous years, possibly due to climate change.

 Jan Sherry said: “Research carried out by the British Ornithological Society shows that golden plover, hen harrier, lapwing and other birds are now nesting as early as the beginning of April.
 “This makes them particularly vulnerable to the effects of fire.”

 Despite the changes, the CCW says it still supports controlled burning in the countryside as an important traditional management practice.

 The practice encourages young, nutritious heather to grow, providing a continuous and rich supply of plants for livestock, moorland birds and other wildlife.

 Jan Sherry said: “Burning has wider environmental implications as well, such as the impact on soil, water, and the ability of peat to store carbon.”

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