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Mowers cutting through the homes of ground-nesting birds on Bradford Council owned moorland

Baildon Moor forms part of Rombalds Moor in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Owned and managed by Bradford Council, in 2018 councillors famously voted to stop letting out the grouse-shooting rights on the neighbouring Ilkley Moor after a long-running campaign from anti-shooting activists, including Chris Packham and Luke Steel. The council now manage the entire area themselves.

Perhaps having seen reports of the many wildfires that have taken hold of other moorland areas during this very dry month, someone has now been cutting fire breaks into the heather, using tractors. Given that the moor is now covered with long, rank heather, with plenty of dead bracken as fuel load, it’s no surprise that the council are concerned about the risk of fire.

The video can be seen on the Yorkshire Dales Moorland Group’s Facebook page:

Right now, however, is peak breeding season for ground-nesting birds; the time when all country people know not to be cutting back hedges or nesting habitats. In cutting breaks into the heather, the habitats, nests and young of ground-nesting birds are being destroyed – many of them rare red or amber-listed species.

Section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 states that it is an offence to intentionally take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built – surely what is happening here.

A quick look at the comments on the Yorkshire Dales Moorland Group’s Facebook page shows what locals make of these actions. One described it as “environmental vandalism”, adding, “they [the council] obviously have no idea what they are doing”.

Bradford Council have now Tweeted about the matter, writing that “This is not Bradford Council that has done this nor have we given permission to do this. This matter has been passed to the police and Natural England and we are working with them to investigate.”

If anything, this demands more questions than it answers. Bradford Council own and manage the moor. They are, therefore, responsible for the moor, and should surely know what is happening on their own land. Perhaps more worryingly, Bradford Council seem to be hinting at the fact that Natural England could have authorised the mowing. Other people have since claimed that some locals could have taken matters into their own hands, after complaining that the moor was left to grow wild as “no one else looks after it.”

The question for whoever has authorised this is: why was fire risk not considered earlier in the year? Moorland estates which are let for shooting manage the moors throughout the year, using cool burns and cutting at the correct times of year to remove excess fuel load, encourage new shoots, and create decent habitats for mammals, insects, and ground-nesting birds.

Burning is only allowed in upland areas until 15 April at the very latest; similarly, hedges across the UK cannot be trimmed after 1 March. So how is Bradford Council allowed to get away with this?


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