Dodging the odd rainstorm the LibDem MEP for Yorkshire and Humberside, Rebecca Taylor, today walked to the blanket bog on Walshaw Moor with Ban the Burn campaigners, to see for herself how draining and burning have damaged this valuable habitat.
The MEP is concerned by the state of the blanket bog and plans to find out more about the issue. If it appears that there has been any failure to properly enforce the EU Habitats Directive on Walshaw Moor, Rebecca intends to raise questions in the European Parliament’s “environment” committee (environment, public health and food safety).
Local environmental activists Dongria Kondh and Keith Wilson showed her the drainage ditches cut into the blanket bog.
Rebecca also saw for herself the pathetic state of the sphagnum moss – hanging on in tiny patches with heather crowding it out and growing through it.
Large patches of burnt heather show how dry the degraded blanket bog has become – like the spot where Rebecca’s standing with Dongria and Keith in the next photo.
The MEP is looking forward to hearing how Natural England will answer the £2.5 million question raised by Ban the Burn. The campaigners want to know why Natural England’s Environmental Stewardship Agreement with Walshaw Moor Estate (WME) Ltd provides over £2.5 million of public subsidy over 10 years for WME to spend on restoring the damaged moorland – while still permitting blanket bog burning, in apparent contravention of the Heather and Grass Burning Code.
Ban the Burn point to the valuable function of healthy blanket bog in reducing flood risk in the valleys, and want all burning and draining of blanket bogs to stop, in line with the Heather and Grass Burning Code. Walshaw Moor, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, is also protected under the EU Habitats Directive, which is implemented in the UK by the Conservation of habitats and species regulations 2010 (SI no. 2010/490) , aka the Habitats Regulations. Ban the Burn want to be sure that all the laws that protect the blanket bog are being properly enforced.