Monday, 25 June 2007

Arson suspected in Welsh nature reserve fire

Wardens for the Countryside Council for Wales are assessing the damage caused to a nature reserve at Cadair Idris, after a recent fire decimated important wildlife habitats. Following a visit by a wildlife crime officer, there are fears that the fire was started deliberately.

Nearly 30 hectares of prime wildlife habitats have been lost as a result of the fire at Tan y Gader, a Site of Special Scientific Interest on the north side of Cadair Idris. CCW is appealing for any information on the incident.

Paul Williams, CCW’s Senior Reserve Manager at Cadair Idris, said: “It will take many years for the area to recover – a generation of young trees were killed and the heathland ruined. This will inevitably have an impact on birds in the area – Merlin, Meadow Pipit, Stonechat and Skylark, for example.”

Any activities that may have an impact on a Site of Special Scientific Interest must be discussed with CCW before being carried out. Deliberately damaging an SSSI is a criminal offence.

Heather burning can take place between 1 October and 15 April in the uplands, and between 1 November and 31 March in the lowlands. But any burning on a SSSI must be discussed with CCW in advance.

Paul Williams added: “Through discussion and co-operation many activities, including heather burning, can be managed in a way that avoids damaging SSSIs. A constructive way ahead can usually be found if projects are discussed with us in advance.”

A leaflet giving practical advice on how heather burning should be managed, and outlining what the law says on the matter, is available from Mike McCabe at the Countryside Council for Wales on 0845 1306229.