Helicopters get busy for moorland conservation

THIS is another busy year for Moors for the Future Partnership as they look to build more than 6,000 dams and spread over 3,500 bags of heather brash across the Peak District and South Pennine moors.

These heavy materials need to get on to the remote moors and the Partnership is working with contractors to ensure it can continue its conservation activities despite the second lockdown.

A helicopter carrying dam material

It takes months to build several thousand dams and is a race against time to get the work finished before the birds begin to nest again in spring.

The building work cannot start until the materials are on the moors, and the only feasible way to do that is fly them in via helicopter.

Moors for the Future Partnership’s carbon audit has shown the resulting healthy moorland environment will absorb more carbon than the helicopters will emit during conservation activities.

Similarly, 3,500 bags of heather brash need to be airlifted onto the moors to be spread onto the bare peat and begin to revegetate it.

Adding to this complicated logistical operation, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the urgency of the operations, but the team has been working hard to get the work completed as early as possible.

Between August and October 2019, more than 2,000 dams were constructed, but in August to October 2020, there were more than 6,000 built.

A helicopter above the stone dams

Chris Dean, head of programme delivery at Moors for the Future Partnership, said: “The conservation works season is always a very busy time of year for our staff, contractors and partners.

“This year everyone involved is putting in a huge amount of effort to ensure that the work gets done despite the increased challenges.

“With six months’ of experience of our new ways of working, we have robust COVID secure procedures and processes that will ensure everyone stays safe while completing this work that is vital to protect our moors.”

On the ground, meanwhile, socially-distanced works parties working in “cells” are constructing the dams, which block drainage channels to help slow the flow of water, reducing the risk of flooding, as well as helping to rewet the moors.

This in turn improves the health of the moorland, providing a better habitat for the bog plants that live there.

Moors for the Future Partnership has been working since 2003 to protect the most degraded landscape in Europe. Using innovative conservation techniques it has transformed more than 34 square kilometres of bare and degraded peat bogs in the Peak District National Park and South Pennines.

The work of the Partnership is delivered by the Peak District National Park Authority supported by partners including the Environment Agency, National Trust High, RSPB, Severn Trent Water, United Utilities, Yorkshire Water, Pennine Prospects, and receives additional advice from the Woodland Trust, Natural England and representatives of the moorland owner and farming community.

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