We have launched a new burning reporting system to help empower communities to call for stronger action to protect the places they love. If you are a walker, hiker or countryside lover, you can now report any upland burning you have seen taking place, to help us call for a ban on burning.

Some of our most iconic and protected English landscapes, including the North and South Pennines, the North York Moors, the Forest of Bowland and the Lake District contain degraded peatlands; which should be restored and rewetted, not routinely burned.

We need your records of managed burning in northern England’s uplands to help us show the government where burning on blanket bog is still taking place. If you live in or visit these iconic landscapes and see any managed burning, you can now report it to us quickly and easily using our new online system. To find out more about protecting our peatlands or to record your sightings, visit rspb.org.uk/uplandburning

This Wednesday, 18 November, MP’s will debate an end to burning on peatland at Westminster – This practice needs to stop now and our peatlands restored if UK Government is serious about tackling the nature and climate emergency. Encourage your MP to attend the debate by tagging them in our peatland tweet here!

What is Upland Burning and what impact does it have?

Photo: Upland Peatland Burning. Credit: Tom Aspinall

 Upland burning allows land managers to legally burn areas of moorland, including peat bogs; to encourage new heather growth and increase the number of red grouse for gamebird shooting. This burning season runs from 1st October 2020 – 15th April 2021. Burning fragile blanket bog has impacts on plant life, animals, water quality and carbon storage. Despite recommendations from the Committee on Climate Change that peat burning is banned by the end of 2020, the government has yet to introduce such a ban.

 Peatlands are one of the UK’s most valuable habitats and have a critical role to play in addressing the global nature and climate crises. They can play an important role in protecting communities from local level impacts of climate change such as flooding, while supporting unique plants, rare wildlife and improving water quality and storage.

 What does the RSPB’s new science say about protecting our peatlands?

New analysis published by the RSPB today reveals the scale of the challenge that the UK’s governments face to restore and maintain our peatlands. Of the 2.7 million hectares of peatland in the UK, three quarters are degraded, while only 2-4% has been restored over the last 30 years.

 The RSPB is calling on the governments of the UK to step up and act urgently to introduce a range of ambitious yet necessary policies to control our greenhouse gas emissions. These include committing to setting clear country targets for restoration and rewetting of peatlands to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with achieving net zero targets. The RSPB want to see an end to destructive practices such as the continued extraction and sale of peat, the conversion of peatlands to forestry and the burning of vegetation on peatlands.

Photo: Golden Plover. Credit: Graham Goodall

Dr Pat Thompson, Senior Policy Officer for RSPB said, “On our own nature reserves, such as at Dovestone in the Peak District, we are restoring blanket bogs by rewetting the moors and re-introducing peat-forming sphagnum mosses. This is progressing well, and it just shows what can be done to conserve nature and carbon at the same time. We also know that keeping these places wet makes them more resilient to the impact of wildfires, as well as slowing the flow of water off the moors which reduces the risk of flooding.

We look forward to the release of the government’s long-promised strategy for England’s peatlands before the end of the year, and with it a commitment to better protect and restore peatlands, including bringing an end to the outdated practice of burning. This would signal a strong commitment to these special places.”

In the UK, peatland covers around 12% of our land area and stores over 3 billion tonnes of carbon. According to a 2019 report from the Office for National Statistics the cost of restoring all peatlands are estimated to be around £8 - £22 billion, but the resulting carbon saving would be worth 5 to 10 times this much.

Details of the RSPB’s new data analysis and the interactive story map can be found at https://bit.ly/PeatlandStory