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Euro ban on weedkiller used on North York Moors postponed
LAND owners have welcomed a temporary reprieve from an EU ruling which may have risked bracken growing out of control on the North York Moors.
The Press reported last year how traditional heather and grouse moorland was under threat from bracken because the EU was planning to ban spraying with Asulam, the only herbicide which is able to effectively control the plant.
The Moorland Association claimed the ban would badly hit Britain’s unique wild red grouse and grouse shooting industry, worth £67.7 million in England, putting more than 2,500 jobs at risk.
George Winn-Darley, the association’s vice-chairman, who manages 6,500 acres of North Yorkshire heather moorland, claimed the ruling – introduced by the European Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health following safety concerns over aerial spraying by spinach growers in continental countries – was “European bureaucracy gone mad”.
But now, following intensive campaigning by The Bracken Control Group, backed by the association, and new advice from the Government’s Advisory Committee on Pesticides, it will be permissible to buy and store Asulam from May 20, and spraying can go ahead from July 1 until the end of the bracken growing season.
Moorland Association chairman Robert Benson said members were delighted to have a season’s breathing space.
“Without this safe, selective, Government-approved herbicide, bracken would change the face of Britain’s countryside, devastating wildlife and destroying grouse moor management. Around £100 million a year would be lost to the UK rural economy.
“Three-quarters of the world’s heather moorland is found in the UK, with nearly 365,000 acres in Yorkshire. Without Asulam, 50 per cent would already be gone.”
Dr Alastair Leake, director of policy with the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, said: “This decision is beneficial on so many fronts – human health, biodiversity, agriculture, leisure, historic environment etc.”
He said up to 70 per cent of all sheep tick activity in heath and dry moorland areas was associated with bracken dominated habitats.