new deal for peatbogs? Limited victory so battle continues...

A deal was announced today (27th February 2002) between Scotts and English Nature, to restore major peatbogs as ecological sites.

The deal is undoubtedly very good news, but it is certainly not the end of the story. The main pointsof the deal are given below.

* Thorne Moor, South Yorkshire, and Wedholme Flow, Cumbria to be restored to raised bog habitats. This will be started immediately; no more peat will be extracted from the site.
* Hatfield Moor, South Yorkshire, to be continued to be mined for peat for a further two years, although only on half the site - the other half will also now be restored.
* For this, English Nature will pay Scotts £17 million as compensation. Scotts will take on much of the responsibility for carrying out the restoration.

Clearly this is very welcome, but the fight is far from over. Some of the problems that remain are:

* Carrying on extracting peat for another two years could make a crucial difference to the chances of a raised bog habitat re-evolving on Hatfield Moor. The depth of the peat is getting startlingly low on many parts of the site, and below a certain depth the ecological value of the system that will regenerate will be significantly reduced.
* In many places the bottom of the peat has been breached, and the sand layer has been dug into. This introduces excessive nutrients into the water table, which means the peat may not support many important plants. Continued digging will almost certainly exacerbate this.
* Scotts bear much of the responsibility for carrying out the ecological restoration work. However, given their track record of destroying ecological systems, what are the assurances that they will not put profitability before doing a good job?
* Scotts will continue to operate their other peatland sites in the UK. In particular, Carnwath Moss in Scotland is a designated SSSI, and they have said that they will continue extraction there for the foreseeable future.
* There are many other peat companies who also still mine peat from valuable wildlife sites. In particular Wm. Sinclair Ltd, who make J. Arthur Bowers brand compost, continue to mine at Bolton Fell in Cumbria, and have pledged to legally challenge government plans to designate it a Special Area for Conservation (this status would mean they would have to stop extracting peat). They also mine at Whim bog, an SSSI in Scotland.
* With the closure of UK peat mines, the problem may well just be shifted overseas. Imported peat will form a grater proportion of the market, with new bogs being destroyed in Ireland or the Baltic States.

So let's be encouraged by the latest news, but not stop until the peat industry is no more!