Wildfire is not a future problem: it is already here

The wildfire threat is not recognised in all quarters.I made this point as part of a presentation at an All-Party Parliamentary Group meeting organised by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust in Westminster on Tuesday.
As chairman of the England & Wales Wildfire Form, I had been asked to give the presentation to highlight the approach to wildfire being promoted by the Forum, following the wildfires of 2018.  Other speakers at the meeting were Professor Rob Marrs (University of Liverpool, President of The Heather Trust) and Clifton Bain (Director of the IUCN UK Peatland Programme).  Despite our varied backgrounds and interests, there was a high degree of unanimity amongst the speakers.
I was grateful for the support of EWWF members at the meeting, which included the chairman of the Scottish Wildfire Forum, two Wildfire Tactical Advisors and a representative of the Forestry Commission.
I mentioned that wildfire should be seen as a year-round threat and this point was endorsed …

Grazing for the Future - Event Report

Graze the Moor Project
I have been working on Molland Moor, Exmoor, since the start of my time at the Heather Trust, in 2002. Since April 2014, I have been managing a project at Molland called Graze the Moor, which finishes at the end of March, next year. The project seeks to establish the impact on habitat from the re-introduction of an effective grazing regime, throughout the year using hill cattle and sheep.  A brief summary of the project can be downloaded.

Winter grazing had ceased at start of the Environmentally Sensitive Area scheme in the late 1980s and many farmers use this to explain the habitat changes that have taken place across Exmoor.  
Graze the Moor draws on 20 years of habitat data that have been collected on Molland Moor, and this has allowed the habitat changes to be mapped.  This five-year project follows a two-year case study that proved the concept, and this has allowed a continuous stream of habitat and livestock data to be collected over the last seven years, w…

Bracken Control - Asulam for 2019

For more information see: 
The application for an Emergency Authorisation (EA) for the 2019 season has been successful. Ministerial consent for the EA was received this morning.

On behalf of the Bracken Control Group, I submitted the application in July and it was considered by the Expert Committee on Pesticides on 25th September.  All the application documents are available on the asulam webpage.

Key dates for 2019: 20 May 2019 Notice of Authorisation published by CRD. Start of the Emergency Authorisation period of 120 days. Storage, promotion, sales, and transfer authorised.
1 July 2019 Application of Asulam can commence.
16 September 2019 First expiry date: for sale & distribution of stocks. Storage and use of stocks can continue.
31 October 2019 Final expiry date: for disposal, storage and use of stocks. It will be illegal to apply or store Asulam after this date.

The registration process for Asulam under the EU Regulations is continuing its slow passage through …

Wildfire - where to next?

As Chairman of the England & Wales Wildfire Forum (EWWF) I have written to The Home Office and Defra to offer the support of the members of the Forum to review the state of preparedness and planning for wildfire.  From early reports coming from the well-publicised fires on Saddleworth Moor and Winter Hill in the South Pennines, I understand that the firefighting effort required to control the fires would have been much reduced if some precautions against wildfire had been in place.  The need to plan for wildfire is thrust of the EWWF's message, which has support from The Heather Trust and the rest of the wildfire community.  We should not be surprised by wildfire; we should accept that it will happen and plan accordingly.
It is not just in UK that major wildfire incidents have been occurring.  The BBC News summary provides a useful overview of the international situation and the horror of what has been happening in Greece, which has resulted in the death of at least 80 people…

The England & Wales Wildfire Forum: Meeting in Wrexham

The England & Wales Wildfire Forum met in Wrexham today, and it was valuable that the Scottish Wildfire Forum was represented at the meeting by the chairman, Bruce Farquharson from Scottish Fire & Rescue Service. This helped to support my view that wildfire requires a UK-wide approach, and the developing interest from Northern Ireland in the work of both Forums is also very welcome.
We covered a lot of ground during the meeting, including the confirmation that the next UK wildfire conference will be held in South Wales in November 2019. The South Wales Fire & Rescue Service has agreed to host the conference and the theme will be based on management for wildfire. In an effort to reach a wider audience, consideration will be given to organising some local / regional events in advance to provide a connection to people who might not want to attend the conference.
We agreed that it is too early in this late spring to be turning our backs on wildfire for the year, as there i…

Wildfire Risk

You may think it is cold and wet where you are, and that this winter is never going to end, but at this time of year the vegetation is at its driest and it only takes a day or two of dry weather to push the wildfire risk to a dangerous level.
Significant wildfires have already occurred this year in southern England, Wales and Scotland.  The latest incident dealt with by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service occurred in Sutherland yesterday.
Indications are that the short burst of hot dry weather that is occurring this week, will raise the wildfire threat in parts of the country, particularly in north and east Scotland.  There is no scope for complacency about wildfire at any time of the year, but at this time of year vigilance is required to avoid serious incidents.  It is not 'if' a wildfire happens in your area, it is 'when', and we should be planning accordingly.
I will be chairing the meeting of the England & Wales Wildfire Forum in Wrexham, next week.  I hope …

Northern Ireland: Reducing Wildfires in the Countryside

Another day, another wildfire meeting.  Yesterday, I was in Northern Ireland as part of an international cast advising Northern Ireland wildfire stakeholders, led by the NI Environment Agency and NI Fire & Rescue Service, about the development of a wildfire strategy.  The other members of the  cast were:
Ciaran Nugent, Forest Service (Ireland)Michael Bruce, Firebreak Services and the Scottish Wildfire ForumChuck Bushey, International Association of Wildland Fire (USA),Colum McDaid - organiser (Northern Ireland Environment Agency)Rob Gazzard, Forestry Commission EnglandJordi Vendrell, Pau Costa Foundation (Catalonia)Alex Held, European Forest Institute (Germany) The meeting took the form of a workshop with group working by the 47 delegates to assess the best approach to adopt in Northern Ireland to develop a wildfire strategy.  It was pleasing to note that there was a high degree of consensus.  The establishment of a mechanism (a wildfire forum?) to bring together the unique range …