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Government moorland advisors descend upon Keighley Moor

A meeting of the country’s senior moorland officials has taken place on Keighley Moor to discuss Government policy for the long-term sustainability of the English uplands.

Known as the Uplands Stakeholder Forum (USF), the focus for the moorland meeting was to review the peatland restoration that Yorkshire Water has undertaken to help improve water quality.

It was attended by officials from Defra, Natural England, the National Farmers Union and the Moorland Association, amongst others.

Due to high rainfall and natural storage capacity, upland catchments, such as Keighley Moor, supply around 70% of England's drinking water.

When this peatland becomes dry - caused by historic air pollution; artificial drainage; overgrazing and inappropriate heather burning - rainfall washes through the peat  on its reservoir bound journey, increasing the colour in the water.

To help improve water quality flowing from these lands into its reservoirs such as Keighley Moor reservoir, Yorkshire Water has recently had 5,000 bags of heather mown off Keighley Moor. A programme of injecting these cut areas with sphagnum moss has also started, which will stop new heather growth dominating the area in the future and reduce the need for burning.

Andrew Walker, Catchment Strategy Manager at Yorkshire Water who led the Stakeholder Forum Tour of Keighley Moor, said: “It was a fantastic opportunity to show the USF membership how we’ve managed to balance the need to protect and enhance peatland. We believe peatland with high biodiversity and good land management practices will deliver a diverse and complex community of plants, that will protect and build the peat for future generations and provide a more natural way of filtering and cleaning the water before it gets into our reservoirs. This means we can ensure customers receive water that is of the highest quality.

“Over time, if we can collectively reduce heather coverage and increase peat-building mosses, I hope that eventually burning will not be necessary, or at least become a rare management practice.”

Another reason to protect peatland is that it is a major storage of carbon in the world. Damage to peat, causes it to release its stored carbon into the atmosphere contributing greatly to greenhouse gas emissions.

Over the last 10 years, Yorkshire Water has worked with partners to restore up to 3,250 hectares of degraded peat in the region. 

Amanda Anderson, Director of the Moorland Association, said: “It was great to hear from Keighley Moor’s grouse shooting gamekeeper and tenant sheep farmer about the restoration techniques being tried and how they can work hand-in-hand for the wild red grouse as well as grazing. Yorkshire Water’s all inclusive approach to sustainable land use and solution finding is an inspiration to all landowners and conservationists.”

Yorkshire Water has played a key role in developing the Government’s blanket bog restoration strategy, which will help to protect the whole of the English uplands, and not just small pockets of water catchment land.

The Uplands Stakeholder Forum aims to meet quarterly throughout the country until the end of 2016 to help direct Government policy on effective uplands management.

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