The British Association for Shooting and Conservation posted a blog titled “The Council, Two Moors and the Mysterious Tractor” after an incident in late April where a tractor was filmed mowing heather on Baildon Moor during nesting season.
The Council, which maintains the moors, said they were unaware of the work, and that police were investigating the incident.
In the blog the group refers to the fact that the Council banned grouse shooting on Ilkley Moor in 2018 “after a high-profile campaign by anti-shooting extremists.”
They say this ban led to a fall in income of £11,000 and the loss of free habitat management, before going on to point out that a major fire hit Ilkley Moor last year. It says the return of shooting, and gamekeepers, to the moor could prevent fires and illegal mowing.
The group has since revealed that the Council had written to them, through it’s legal department, demanding they amend the blog.
Garry Doolan, BASC’s deputy director of communications and public affairs, said: “We had no contact from the council on this matter until we received a lawyer’s letter threatening us with media exposure if we did not give in to their demands.
“It’s a rather bizarre approach from the council and one that is unlikely to reap dividends with either us or the council’s other critics when what we were trying to achieve at the outset was wider exposure of the awful events on the moor. If they want to help us get this issue into the wider media, we would be delighted.
“What is at the heart of this is that somebody felt it was okay to mow the moor in the spring when vulnerable ground-nesting birds were in the middle of their breeding season.
“The moorland is under the management of Bradford Council and so the incident occurred on their watch. It is only right that this incident is called out by BASC and others.
“We will gladly put more information on our website on behalf of Bradford Council once they open proper lines of communication with BASC instead of using their lawyers to try to threaten and intimidate us.”
A Bradford Council spokesperson, said: “We wrote to BASC to correct a number of inaccuracies on their website and asked that they correct them.
“The website gives the impression that the council is responsible for a tractor mowing heather on Baildon Moor during the nesting season.
“This is not the case, as most local people know, and the matter has been dealt with by the police.
“The BASC claims the lack of keepers was responsible for a failure in preventing an arson attack on Ilkley Moor last year. There is absolutely no evidence to support this.
“They also claim that by withdrawing shooting leases the council is lumbered with unprofitable business plans for moorland and limited expertise to manage them. Again, this is not the case.
“It is simply not true that BASC haven’t had any communication from us. In April we supplied them with a statement outlining that the mower damage to the moor was done without our permission and that the matter had been referred to the police.
“The BASC didn’t include this statement in their coverage.
“We fully accept different views exist on how to best manage moorland but cannot tolerate misleading reports which only seek to undermine the work we do to maintain our brilliant moorland which is enjoyed without issue by many thousands of people every year.
“We strongly refute the idea that the only way to manage moorland is with shooting and game keeping.
“Bradford Council will continue to manage and protect our open spaces, the rich wildlife and wider ecology so they can be enjoyed by everyone.”
Councillor Mike Pollard (Cons, Baildon) said: “Wholly regardless of what I think about the Labour Group’s decision about withdrawal of shooting rights on Ilkley Moor, BASC’s contention that the case of serious arson could have been prevented, if the moor had still been ‘keepered’, is wholly unproven and, indeed, unprovable.
“The key issue for me, as a Baildon Ward Councillor, is that the mowing on Baildon Moor was done without the Council’s knowledge or permission and BASC should publicly acknowledge that. It is somewhat hazardous, for pressure groups writing blogs, to rely upon Facebook Foolishness or Twitter Twaddle for their background information.”