Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
England’s ‘national rainforests’ to be protected by new rules
- Also published by:
- Natural England
Legislation will be brought forward to prevent the burning of heather and other vegetation on protected blanket bog habitats.
The government has announced plans to bring forward legislation to prevent the burning of heather and other vegetation on protected blanket bog habitats.
The new regulations will prevent the burning of any specified vegetation on areas of deep peat (over 40cm depth) on a Site of Special Scientific Interest that is also a Special Area of Conservation or a Special Protection Area unless a licence has been granted or the land is steep or rocky.
‘Rotational’ burning is used as a management tool on moorland and blanket bog. Land managers use controlled burning on patches of heather during winter months typically on a 8-12 year rotation.
There is a consensus that burning of vegetation on blanket bog is damaging to peatland formation and habitat condition. It makes it more difficult or impossible to restore these habitats to their natural state and to restore their hydrology.
Restoring England’s peatlands is a priority for the government. It will help achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 as well as protecting our valuable habitats, and the biodiversity those habitats support.
Blanket bog, a type of peatland, is a delicate habitat of international importance, with the UK having 13% of the world’s blanket bog.
The government recognises that if moorland is unmanaged, there is a risk of wildfire which is most damaging of all and that these risks have grown due to climate change. Therefore, the government intends to work with land owners and managers to develop local wildfire control plans.
There will be specific circumstances where the ban does not apply, such as on steep land or where scree makes up half the land area. In addition, the Secretary of State may also issue licences for the burning of heather on blanket bog for the purposes of wildfire prevention, for a conservation purpose or where land is inaccessible to cutting or mowing machinery. These licences may cover several years so that they can be aligned with coherent management plans for sites.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said:
Our peatlands have great potential as a natural store of carbon, as well as protecting habitats, providing a haven for rare wildlife and being a natural provider of water regulation.
We want to work with land owners to restore the natural hydrology of many of these sites through our new agricultural policy to support our ambitions for the environment. The burning of heather on these sites makes it more difficult to restore their natural hydrology which is why we are taking this step.
Natural England Chair Tony Juniper said:
This is a hugely welcome announcement which will see better protections for our globally important peatlands. Blanket bog is an amazing habitat that provides essential environmental benefits, including carbon storage, a home for wonderful wildlife, clean drinking water and flood mitigation. This is why it is vital we ensure these systems are healthy with peat-forming species, such as Sphagnum mosses, thriving in water-logged conditions.
We will continue to work with Defra and land managers to help with the successful implementation of these measures, including by providing advice on good upland management and leading a new peatland restoration grant scheme as part of the Nature for Climate programme.
This will provide funds to carry out restoration work on these precious ecosystems, ensuring their recovery and protection for the benefit of both present and future generations.
This move marks a key step for meeting the Government’s nature and climate change mitigation and adaptation targets, and part of the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan commitment to bring 75% of SSSIs into favourable condition.
The Government will be setting out further measures to protect England’s peatlands this year as part of a package of measures to protect England’s landscapes and nature-based solutions. The government’s £640m Nature for Climate Fund also includes funding to kick-start a programme of peatland restoration over the next 5 years.
The statutory instrument will be laid before Parliament for its approval before it comes into force.
Latest News from
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Ministers showcase the UK’s green future ahead of COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow17/05/2021 11:22:00
COP26 President-Designate Alok Sharma marked less than six months to go until the climate change summit this November, as Government Ministers travelled across the country to see how the UK is greening all parts of society.
Landmark laws to keep children safe, stop racial hate and protect democracy online published14/05/2021 11:20:00
The Online Safety Bill will help protect young people and clamp down on racist abuse online, while safeguarding freedom of expression.
Animals to be formally recognised as sentient beings in domestic law13/05/2021 15:10:00
Introduction of the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill as part of the Government's Action Plan for Animal Welfare.
Minister Prentis speech for SAGB annual conference on 12 May 202113/05/2021 11:20:00
Minister Prentis delivers the keynote speech at the Shellfish Association of Great Britain's annual conference.
UK to lead the way on animal welfare through flagship new Action Plan12/05/2021 12:20:00
UK launches first ever action plan to improve the welfare and conservation of animals at home and abroad
New Environment Bill provisions to tackle storm overflows11/05/2021 14:20:00
New legal duties on water companies and government will be included in the Environment Bill to reduce sewage discharged into waterways.
Taskforce launched to investigate reported rise in pet thefts10/05/2021 15:15:15
Taskforce will investigate and draw up action to tackle these crimes.
44,000 trees to be planted as Urban Tree Challenge Fund reopens10/05/2021 14:20:00
More trees in urban areas will help support people’s health and wellbeing as well as wider environmental benefits, as we build back greener from the pandemic.