The Future Landscapes Forum: Scientists and practitioners criticise 'dangerous' attempts to ban controlled burning on heather moors

YORK, England, Aug. 30, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — A group of prominent scientists and practitioners have said there is ‘no clear scientific consensus to support a blanket ban against controlled vegetation burning on heather moorland’ and that ‘policy decisions are being influenced by special interest groups who regularly ignore or distort evidence in order to outlaw the practice’.  

The Future Landscapes Forum (FLF), a consortium of academics and experts in upland management, has published a position statement expressing their growing concerns that the debate about managing heather moorlands, including on peatlands, is neither properly informed nor evidence-based, leading to dangerous policy decisions that ignore the positive social and ecological effects of controlled burning.

The group says these decisions disregard a large body of evidence showing that controlled burning can support wildfire prevention, carbon capture, and biodiversity improvement. Moreover, risks and impacts of alternatives like cutting or no vegetation management remain largely unknown and are often ignored.

“We simply do not have the evidence to say that cutting, rewetting, or a cessation of vegetation management are always better at reducing the risk of wildfires, capturing carbon and maintaining biodiversity. On the contrary, the existing evidence is that controlled burning can often contribute to all of these important aspects,” said Dr Andreas Heinemeyer, an Associate Professor at the University of York and member of the FLF.

“We are calling for policymakers to adopt an adaptive management approach towards heather-dominated landscapes. We support regulations that steer practitioners towards good standards of controlled burning and encourage better communication links between policymakers and those leading research into the management of the UK’s heather-dominated landscapes,” Heinemeyer added.

The FLF says that the debate around managing heather moorlands has become derailed by an undue focus on the issue of driven grouse shooting. The group says this focus is wrong and has led to highly reductive arguments against controlled burning being presented as scientific consensus by influential individuals and organisations.

“The management of heather-dominated landscapes is about so much more than grouse shooting. Frankly, we would be making the case for controlled burning if grouse, and grouse shooting, did not exist. But certain groups are so preoccupied with this issue that they ignore all the evidence in favour of controlled burning and the risks of the alternatives, especially considering wildfires” continued Heinemeyer.

“We believe that judgements on the management of heather-dominated landscapes should be made according to all the available scientific evidence, consider its quality and uninfluenced by positions on grouse shooting.”

About the Future Landscapes Forum –

The Future Landscapes Forum (FLF) is a group of academics and practitioners with specialist knowledge of the management, ecology, functioning and fire risk associated with heather-dominated landscapes in the UK.

Members of the FLF have published a considerable body of peer-reviewed studies and assessments relating to this globally important habitat. Their shared views represent a collective body of current, evidence-based science and best practice about managing the UK’s heather dominated landscapes with the aims of protecting life and property; enhancing ecosystems; and preserving heather moorlands.

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The Future Landscapes Forum: Scientists and practitioners criticise'dangerous' attempts to ban controlled burning on heather moors WeeklyReviewer

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