Help us protect precious heathlands from wildfire

While many of us have been discovering the beauty of our natural landscapes during the lockdown period, the use of BBQ’s, wild camping and littering have increased the incidents of wildfires over the summer season. Your support will help us continue our vital work to manage heathland sites in a way that helps control fires such as these and reduce the effects on rare plant and animal species and the habitats they rely on, as well as enhancing and protecting the wellbeing of local communities.

Although sadly a common occurrence during hot dry weather, large wildfires such as those at Ferndown Common, Wareham Forest, Thursley Common, and Sunningdale nature reserve have in recent years significantly ravaged hundreds of hectares of internationally important heathland habitats. In the last 250 years over 85% of our heaths have been lost because of changes in land use, neglect and wildfire. On a global scale lowland dry heath is now rarer than tropical rainforest.

Heathlands support a wide variety of rare and disappearing wildlife including smooth snakessand lizards, nightjars and silver-studded blue butterflies. Wildfires not only kill animals caught in the flames but also destroy natural habitats, leaving any survivors exposed and at risk of predation. Most heathland sites are now small and fragmented, so sensitive species are prone to local extinction. As well as being a danger to wildlife, people and property can also be at risk.

In addition to educational campaigns about fire risks, ARC works with partner organisations and landowners to practice ecologically sound reserve management, meaning fire services can get the spread of fire under control more quickly and safely. These practical conservation activities include:

  • Creating and maintaining fire breaks to help contain fires and provide good, safe access routes for the fire service
  • Mowing ‘drunken’ cuts in the heather to reduce the build-up of fuel
  • Maintenance of access tracks and gates
  • Producing site fire plans and liaising with the local fire service to track alerts
  • Clearing fast burning scrub, particularly gorse
  • Grazing with cattle to control grasses where appropriate
  • Wardening for fly tipping and anti-social behaviour

In these difficult times our resources are extremely stretched; if you would like to help support our work to protect heathland sites from fires and other threats please consider making a donation.

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