Sunday, 10 March 2013

Muirburn havoc in North Uist

On returning home with a car load of trees and shrubs on the afternoon 10th March I noticed the south-east slope of Ben na Coille, North Uist ablaze. The wind was a south-east to easterly, force 7, gusting to force 8. Within the hour the whole western slope of hill was on fire and smoke was drifting over Carinish. By 17:30 all 3 fire crews from the Uists were out fighting the blaze; attempting to contain the fire and stop it from reaching the main road. At 19:30 it was still possible to see flames leaping into the air around the Carinish community woodland and further afield towards Loch Euphort. Why? because someone thought it was a good day to clear the heather from the hill of Ben na Coille for his sheep to have better grazing this year.

Below are the legal requirements for a muirburn:
  • By law, burning is only allowed between: 1st October - 15th April: extendable to 30th April by permission of the landowner.
  • Notice of your intention to burn in the coming muirburn season must be given in writing to the landowner, and occupiers of land within 1 km of the intended muirburn site, at least 7 days before burning.
  • Burning must not start between sunset and sunrise.
  • Sufficient people and equipment must be available to control the fire.
  • All reasonable precautions must be taken to prevent injury or damage.
  • The smoke from the fire must not cause a nuisance.
  • If the fire will be within a Site of Special Scientific Interest or other designated site, you must check whether consent for burning is required from Scottish Natural Heritage. Do not burn without such consent.
  • An appropriate Health & Safety Risk Assessment must be carried out before burning.

Golden Eagle, Hen Harrier and Merlin did nest in the area as well as Red Grouse and Stonechat, to name but a few. Greenshank could well have nested within the now burnt area in the past but it'll be a good few years before any of these birds nest here again.
Whilst I was photographing the blaze I noticed someone walking back from Loch Carabhat and Ben na Coille. They didn't look unduly concerned but I wanted to know what they had seen and went to meet the crofter. I asked him if he'd been to the back of the hill and he said not. I mentioned the disastorous hill fire and he said that it was all leggy heather that was neither good for man nor beast. I informed the fella that Golden Eagle (could be on eggs now) and various other birds nest there but he just shrugged it off. He said it was how you managed the moorland. MANAGE! The fire was totally uncontrolled and has ripped through Carinish community woodland. It's amazing that people get away with this flagrant vandalism and disregard for people and wildlife.

Maybe it's time for some tighter controls on muirburn.

1 comment:

  1. I thought people were more informed in this day and age. Unbelieveable :{