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RSPB launch fundraiser after wildfire destroys reserve, yet still the charity calls for muirburn ban

A wildfire has burnt through a 30 sq mile area of scrub and woodland near Cannich in the Scottish Highlands, in what is thought could be the largest ever recorded in the UK.

According to BBC reports, two firefighters were hurt at the scene of the blaze after their all-terrain vehicle overturned.

In response the RSPB have called on supporters to help them raise funds for an 'emergency wildfire appeal'. At time of writing the campaign had raised £112 out of a £50,000 target.

Had the reserve been appropriately managed, with sufficient controlled burning taking place during winter months, then it is highly unlikely the impact of the wildfire would have been anywhere near as significant. The irony of the charity now asking supporters for more money to repair their problems has not been lost on some social media users.

The wildfire has decimated the RSPB's Corrimony nature reserve, which is made up of birch woodland and heather moorland.

The reserve's manager, Simon McLaughlin, said: "the activities of ground nesting birds had been badly affected and some species, including frogs, had died in the fire."

McLaughlin had previously stated on his social media that he is "responsible for day to day management of RSPB's largest reserve, which is an internationally important blanket bog habitat."

The damage inflicted on this blanket bog will be catastrophic and will only be able to be fully assessed once the wildfire is extinguished.

The RSPB's much criticised position on controlled burning has been to lead a national campaign to have the practice banned. Their policy position is entirely at odds with firefighters and experienced land managers.

In a recent submission to the Scottish Parliament the RSPB claimed: "We are highly sceptical of a need to burn for restoration and wildfire prevention on peatland. There is a lack of evidence from field studies that variation in fuel loads resulting from muirburn influence the occurrence of wildfire in moorland. Indeed, muirburn is associated with the outcomes that could potentially increase the susceptibility of peatland to wildfire, including a lowering of peatland water tables and the perpetuation of a fire-prone heather dominated sward."

This devastating wildfire, which has likely released more carbon into the atmosphere than every controlled burn combined carried out across the UK's uplands in the past burning season, should serve as stark reminder to the RSPB on the environmental and economic consequences of wildfire.

As the climate continues to warm fuel load management is going to be of growing importance and land managers need all wildfire mitigation tools at their disposal to manage this.

It is about time the RSPB woke up to this.


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