From: Tina Brough, Co-Ordinator, North York Moors Moorland Organisation.
THE heather habitat of the North York Moors is a unique environment, and one which is rarer than tropical rainforest – 75 per cent of heather moorlands are found in Britain, and these sustain a wide variety of wildlife, birdlife and plant species.
However, this is only achievable thanks to the moorland management carried out by the moorland communities, and the significant income which driven grouse shooting brings to a very fragile rural economy.
It is estimated that, nationally, people who shoot spend £2.5bn each year on goods and services. While around 3,000 gamekeepers and beaters are employed by the UK’s moorland estates, there are thousands of others who depend on the income that grouse shooting brings, from publicans and B&B owners to tweed weavers and gun manufacturers.
Without grouse shooting, the rural economies of these fragile, remote areas of the country would risk being entirely wiped out.
In addition to the benefits that managed moorlands bring to rural economies, the moors also benefit directly from investment. In England, owners and tenants of grouse moors spend £50m on their management each year.
This sum simply could not be created by any alternative moorland uses, such as rewilding for wildlife tourism, and nor could these jobs and related incomes be sustained.
Our heather moorlands are home to many rare and endangered bird species. The merlin is our smallest bird of prey, and 80 per cent of them are found on our grouse moors. Waders such as curlew, lapwing and golden plover all thrive on moors managed for red grouse, and when moor management is stopped, these bird populations plummet.
As well as being simply about moorlands, this is about the UK’s moorland communities, and rural communities more widely. It is vital that rural voters feel that both their candidate and their political party will support them, and help them, particularly in the face of Brexit.
Many of our moorland communities feel as if their views are not being heard, and it’s up to politicians to change that.
We would welcome the opportunity to invite candidates here to visit the Moors, where we can show you the wonderful diversity of bird and plant life that they have to offer, and we look forward to working with them in the future.