Today’s announcement from Defra that the government plans to bring forward legislation to prevent the burning of heather and other vegetation on protected blanket bog habitats aligns with the key principles, set out in the IUCN UK Peatland Programme Position Statement, that burning is damaging to peatlands and hinders peatland restoration.
Over the coming months the detail of legislation around the licensing of burning on peatlands is due for release in Scotland (February) and England (April). To meet the challenges of the climate change and biodiversity crises the regulations around burning should:
- apply the rules against burning of heather and other vegetation across all peatlands;
- require any proposal to burn peatlands to be managed under a licensed approach and overseen by a statutory agency;
- include a presumption against burning of heather and other vegetation on peatland, with the burden of proof for any proposal to use burning being demonstration to the satisfaction of the licencing agency that burning is necessary for the ecological health of the peatland habitat and that it will not have a negative ecological impact on this habitat;
- make it a stipulation of license conditions that effective monitoring be undertaken of impacts arising from any approved burning on peatland, including ecological condition, in addition to demonstrating routine compliance;
- provide for wider assessment and monitoring of peatlands to enable better understanding of non-burning approaches on managed moorlands and appropriate management responses to minimise the impact of wildfire.