THE newly-elected chairman of the Moorland Association, Mark Cunliffe-Lister, has said “listening to the science” will demonstrate the vital contribution moorland makes in terms of habitat and biodiversity.

Mr Cunliffe-Lister, who runs Swinton Estate, said there is a tremendous opportunity to build on the multiple habitat and biodiversity successes that moorland management has achieved.

He said: “The UK’s moorlands are very special places and we need to do everything we can to make sure they can be treasured by generations to come.

“There is a massive commitment by moor owners and land managers to guarantee the wonderful upland landscape is maintained and nurtured.”

Moorland Association members look after 860,000 acres of heather moorland in England and Wales. More than 60 per cent of England’s upland Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) are moors managed for grouse shooting.

Mr Cunliffe-Lister added: “We are all rightly proud of the moorland that we look after and manage, most of which is designated SSSI due to the sound grouse moor management that had been carried out on the land.

“This means we continue to work hard to provide great habitat for a wide range of wildlife, a rich tapestry of purple heather and peatland that plays an important role in carbon capture.

“We must continue to highlight all the good work that we see on the ground, backed up with the science, and the multiple biodiversity benefits it brings.

“Like all land use at a time of heightened environmental awareness, a few of these practices come under scrutiny and sometimes criticism but point to short-term issues.

“We will demonstrate the long-term gain in terms of environmental and nature benefits important to the public.

“We will all need to work together alongside the scientists to demonstrate the long-term gains to do our bit tackle the climate emergency.

“In generations gone by, moors were valued by land owners as solely for what they provided in terms of grouse shooting but that is far from the case now with nature, environment, flooding mitigation and carbon storage all to the fore.

“The role of the gamekeeper too has changed so much. They are now modern moorland managers and their conservation and biodiversity knowledge and skills are hugely important in protecting wildlife.”

Lord Ridley has become president of Moorland Association and Tom Orde-Powlett, of Bolton Estate, has been elected vice-chairman.