More ‘extreme hairdressing’ as Highland grouse moors set alight

Last week, Scottish Land & Estates were warning of a high wildfire risk but said that ‘many grouse moors have already stopped their annual muirburn programme’ (here).

Here are two that haven’t yet stopped (they don’t have to stop until the muirburn season ends on 15 April). First up is Moy Estate – we’ve blogged about the grouse moor hairdressers on this estate a few times (see here and here). Last Saturday (8 April 2017) one of our blog readers took the following photographs:

Here is a series of unattended fires stretching for an estimated 4km.

The fires created a massive plume of toxic smoke, heading towards Nairn. Lucky Nairn residents, eh? You do have to wonder how this all fits in with Scotland meeting its climate change targets.

Meanwhile, a little further to the east on Dava Moor, close to Lochindorb, another blog reader took photos of more trees that had been cut and then burned:

The photographer mentioned that the area around Lochindorb was also being burned, right up to the shore, in gale force winds!

What’s interesting about Dava Moor is that it forms part of the designated Drynachan, Lochindorb and Dava Moor Special Landscape Area:

You really should read the assessment of this SLA – it’s quite something. It says the landscape here (predominantly intensively managed grouse moor) is ‘valued for its homogeneity, characterised by geometric muirburn patterns creating an abstract mosaic of colour and texture’ and there is a ‘strong sense of tranquility’. See pages 144-149: Assessment of Highland Special Landscape Areas

Strong sense of tranquility? Who writes this crap? It’s a barren, biodiversity-poor wasteland, ravaged by the ecological warfare waged against any species that might interfere with the overproduction of farmed red grouse for ‘sport’ shooting.


24 Responses to “More ‘extreme hairdressing’ as Highland grouse moors set alight”

  1. 1 Henry Swardle
    April 13, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    If the details are correct they have committed more than one [Ed: alleged] offence.

    Here’s the Muirburn code.. http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2011/08/09125203/3

    • 2 lizzybusy
      April 13, 2017 at 7:53 pm

      I would add this to the list. Great link by the way.

      The Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994
      S43 Protection of wild plants of European protected species

      S43(1) It is an offence deliberately to pick, collect, cut, uproot or destroy a wild plant of a European protected species.

      (3) Paragraphs (1) and (2) apply to all stages of the biological cycle of the plants to which they apply.

      (4) A person shall not be guilty of an offence under paragraph (1), by reason of any act made unlawful by that paragraph if he shows that the act was an incidental result of a lawful operation and could not reasonably have been avoided.

      (6) In any proceedings for an offence under this regulation, the plant in question shall be presumed to have been a wild plant unless the contrary is shown.

      SCHEDULE 4

      Dock, Shore Rumex rupestris
      Fern, Killarney Trichomanes speciosum
      Gentian, Early Gentianella anglica
      Lady’s–slipper Cypripedium calceolus
      Marshwort, Creeping Apium repens
      Naiad, slender Najas flexilis
      Orchid, Fen Liparis loeselii
      Plantain, Floating–leaved water Luronium natans
      Saxifrage, Yellow Marsh Saxifraga hirculus

      • 3 lizzybusy
        April 13, 2017 at 7:55 pm

        Just suggesting a potential offence. These guardians of the countryside after all would know which plants were on their estates.

        • April 13, 2017 at 9:19 pm

          Ironically, at the core of the area is the “Carn nan Tri-tighearnan SSSI/SAC blanket bog site! Of european importance.

          “Carn nan Tri-tighearnan is a large upland site at an altitude of between 300 and 614m above sea level. It lies to the north of the River Findhorn and south of Nairn. It has been notified as an SSSI for its blanket bog and its extensive area of subalpine heath. The site is an outstanding example of a large eastern Scottish blanket bog with an extensive area of well developed lichen rich vegetation. The heathland communities are also extensive and are locally species rich with species such as bearberry Arctostaphylos uva-ursi and intermediate wintergreen Pyrola media.
          The rare Baltic rush Juncus balticus, a plant usually associated with dune slacks in the northeast of Scotland, occurs on the west of Carn Sgumain.
          The site is of European interest for its blanket bog habitat, designated as the Carn nan Tri-tighearnan Special Area of Conservation (SAC).”

          So clearly… muirburn will be banned….

  2. 5 Les Wallace
    April 13, 2017 at 2:01 pm

    See our glorious ‘custodians of the countryside’ have been helping create that wonderful habitat mosaic they keep talking about by cutting down the last few pitiful trees. They must all go for a pint down the ‘Auld Pish and Bollocks’.

  3. 6 George M
    April 13, 2017 at 2:09 pm

    This article mirrors my own experiences of heather burning in Glen Esk a few years ago. They continually burnt on very windy weather and often in places which, if left untended, had the potential to burn huge tracts of land. Indeed, on one occasion the fire they set burned out of control and destroyed a whole hillside. Incensed at their carelessness I contacted Tayside Fire Brigade (TFB) as three of their fire engines had been sent to try to control it. I received a visit from members of TFB and I was informed that they had sent a warning letter to the Estate involved. The very next week I watched the same employees from the same estate light a small fire, leave it unattended while driving on for 100 to 200 yards and doing the same thing. At one point 4 or 5 fires were alight with no one supervising them. Though I got in contact with TFB again no further contact was initiated and the situation ended in much the same way it did when I reported illegally set traps. By then I was beginning to suspect that something might be amiss in how these complaints against large estates were handled.

  4. April 13, 2017 at 2:14 pm

    The glorious plutocracy!

    • 8 Big Eck
      April 13, 2017 at 2:42 pm

      They were still burning on the hill between Glenesk and Glen Lethnot on 6/4/2017, couldn’t tell which side of the march fence though

  5. 9 Northern Diver
    April 13, 2017 at 2:49 pm

    As I spent a day last week helping plant 400 trees on moorland in Upper Wharfedale, I grieve to see those established trees destroyed. Luckily the donors of the Upper Wharfedale Estate specifically ruled out letting the land for shooting when given to the National Trust. Unfortunately though there are 2 grouse moors in the close vicinity, one owned by the Hancock family – Heather Hancock being head of the Food Standards Agency. She must love the lead fragments in her grouse dinners!
    Stubble burning on arable lowland was banned – why not a ban on muir-burn? Smoke is smoke = pollution.

  6. 11 crypticmirror
    April 13, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    Tranquility? Like the Sea of Tranquility on the Moon then, barren, desolate, empty…? Visited by few people at great expense? Sounds about right.

  7. 13 michael gill
    April 13, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    “valued for its homogeneity”???? Jesus

  8. 15 Pauline Greenhalgh
    April 13, 2017 at 8:38 pm

    So the Golden Plover who were thinking of nesting there will have flown off then – so much for diversity – its tranquil cos there’s nothing left to make a noise …

  9. 16 Doug Malpus
    April 13, 2017 at 11:12 pm

    I was in the Great Glen travelling by canoe last week. The conditions were windy at loch level, Tuesday 4 Apr. up to F6, Wed. F4 to 5 and Thurs F4 to 6, one can only guess at the wind strength at 1000ft or more up. Smoke from heather burning in high winds were visible on many of the surrounding hills. On my journey home on Friday, the Cairngorms and other moorland areas were alight in strong winds.

    Clearly those responsible for the burning have no concern for the environment, flora and fauna.

    The early moorland birds are not considered in this intensive farming carried out to increase gun fodder for the sick.

    The moorlands were an eyesore, much worse than I remember from previous visits.


    • April 14, 2017 at 10:34 pm

      Wildlife is not considered at all. However, the right to burn does not trump other wildlife laws. They might be in the muirburn season, but this does not give them the right to deliberately kill and destroy.

      It is not legal to destroy as much as a meadow pipits nest or to kill adders by burning them alive. The key word is reckless. If they behave recklessly without a reasonable check over the burn area and destroy a nest…. then they are being reckless (they know they are very likely to be there). If they are being reckless then they are wildlife criminals……………….. but then they are usually professional game keepers.

      So common folks lets do the footwork and walk over a few burnt patches with cameras.

  10. 18 Chris Batchelor
    April 14, 2017 at 8:36 am

    It’s no longer simply a matter of the environmental damage, but their complete indifference to national and international laws. These people clearly don’t regard themselves as bound by the law – and the authorities agree with them!

    • 19 crypticmirror
      April 14, 2017 at 11:52 am

      Exactly they are above the law, they’ve made that clear. When the crooks and the ones operating the entire judicial and policing systems are one and the same and act to make sure they are above the law, then what do we do? What to do about criminals who operate above the law? How can there be normal civil protest in such circumstances? What is the right, moral and effective way to combat this?

    • April 14, 2017 at 5:40 pm

      We know that this sends carcinogenic dioxines as far and wide as the smoke goes. so on top of law breaking the landowners don’t care if children get ill, if people get cancer. Time this was put a stop to.

  11. 21 Russel
    April 14, 2017 at 12:03 pm

    This whole area is also littered with tubs of medicated grit. Iv’e never seen so many in the one area although sometimes hidden under slabs. Hares are few and far between and tunnel traps a plenty. The organisations that “look after” these areas really don’t have an ounce of credit to their name.

  12. 22 Justin S O
    April 14, 2017 at 8:19 pm

    4kms of fire is certainly not good burning practise. The leading edge of any one fire should be 50m – 4kms of fire, and that’s 80 fires; really? Nor does the heather look like it’s grown to the point that it needs a fire. Have you or your correspondent considered whether these are accidental fires, like recently occurred south of the border?

  13. 24 Iain Gibson
    April 17, 2017 at 3:35 am

    Until recently at least (and I am unaware of any change in policy or practice), in Scotland SNH not only encourages landowners to burn heather on SSSIs, it pays them under the terms of a management agreement to do so. Yet most conservationists and environmental scientists are in agreement that the practice is highly damaging for a range of reasons. Why does this anomaly continue to prevail? In a SSSI/SPA with which I am familiar in the west of Scotland, the problem now is not actually gamekeepers setting fires outside the terms of the agreement, but hill sheep farmers. Despite the formal agreement being flouted by burning such areas, and this being reported to SNH, they apparently did nothing to remonstrate with the perpetrators. When asked why not, SNH declined to comment. Also, the illegal burning was on land within a Regional Park, some of it publicly owned, but the Park Authority declined to even speak to the farmers concerned, in order to avoid harming “working relationships” between the two parties. Extensive fires destroyed at least 4,000 hectares of mature heather and good quality grass-dominated habitat, also burning into blanket bog peat and destroying animal life, including killing literally many thousands of Field Voles, hundreds of Common Lizards, an entire isolated population of Large Heath butterflies, and significantly impoverishing available habitat for breeding Meadow Pipits. This contributed to an alarming decline in the breeding Hen Harrier population. If this is at all typical of how harrier SSSIs are allowed to be managed, hardly surprising that the species is in such dire straits, especially when persecution in grouse shooting areas continues to be extreme and persistent.

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