EDIT - JULY 2018: For advice on staying safe and protecting the countryside in the wake of the wildfire on Saddleworth Moor, click here.
The Police and Natural England would like to make local residents aware of the moorland around us in Calderdale and Kirklees and make sure that our moors do not suffer from accidental or deliberate fires, which is particularly important during the Spring and Summer months.
Much of the moorland in Calderdale and Kirklees is classed as SSSI (site of Special Scientific Interest) or SPA (Special Protection Area). The moorland close to the residents of Calderdale regularly suffers moorland fires. Many of you will remember the awful fires of previous years. These fires are set deliberately or are caused by carelessness. The fires are not caused by “farmers burning the grass on the moors”.
If you happen to see a moorland fire, please dial 999 and ask for the fire service. Please do not assume that someone else will have rung the fire service already, because others may be thinking the same thing!
These wide open moorland habitats on our doorstep are important for many reasons: the breeding birds they support, as well as the semi-natural habitats which exist on them. The blanket bog habitats are of particular interest, as globally they are a very scarce habitat and Britain processes a high percentage of their international coverage. The moorlands are not just important for their wildlife, they are extremely important for the carbon which they contain and remove from the atmosphere and the majority of the countries drinking water comes from the uplands. They also absorb water when it rains, helping to reduce flood risk.
Healthy moorland can support a longer season of grazing for stock and a much wider variety of bird and plant species. Much of our moorland is now grass, due to the fires of the past. Burning grass moorland only produces more grass, which provides only short term grazing of 3 to 4 months.
Some areas of heather moor are burnt to diversify the structure of heather for birds; this is a completely different practice and only takes place outside the bird breeding season – before the 15th of April.
The majority of our grass moor fires are later than this and destroy the nests of many bird species. In the South Pennines there should no intentional burning of grass moors. No permissions are in place with Natural England for this to take place on the designated moorland.
To help the moorlands recover, Natural England is working in partnership with bodies such as Yorkshire Water and Moors for the Future to restore these degraded habitats. Millions of pounds is being put into the moors to protect them and help them to recover. Fire puts all this investment at risk – restoration works can be wiped out by one bad fire.
Grass moor fires destroy wildlife and halt the recovery of the moorland. They also endanger the restoration work which is taking place on bare peat to reduce carbon loss and help combat climate change, and increase the expense to households for the cleaning of drinking water which is gathered off the moorlands.
Let us make sure that the moors on our doorstep are protected for all, including the wildlife, to enjoy, and that no visitor to the area leaves with the memory of a moorland fire.
See a Moorland Fire? Dial 999