Grouse Moor Management

See Supplementary Information – Grouse Moor Management


Key Issues:


  • To provide a mosaic of different ages of heather and other vegetation to provide food, nesting areas and shelter for grouse.  This can also benefit a range of other moorland species.

Style of Burning

  • Low severity (“cool”) fires burnt over moist soils with a range of fire intensities depending on fuels, slope and wind.
  • Narrow headfires creating strips with widths of 30-50m.  Backing, flanking and other ignition patterns can also be used to control fire intensity and reduce the risk of escapes.
  • Strip fires can run for several hundred metres.


  • The period between management will be determined by the rate of growth of the heather.  Burning should not take place until the heather is 20-30cm tall.  In the most productive situations this will take at least 8 years, but it may take much longer in other areas.
  • The rate of growth will be influenced by factors such as altitude, fertility of the soil and the amount of grazing, and burning frequency should be adjusted accordingly.


  • Heather fires can have high fire intensity with a fast rate of spread, and they react quickly to changes in wind direction or wind speed.
  • Fire intensities can be generated that are beyond the capacity of on-site fire control equipment.
  • Heather fires can breach firebreaks through heat transfer or creeping through short vegetation.
  • Low levels of fuel moisture can lead to significant increases in the rate of spread and fire intensity.
    • Heather is a fine fuel with dead litter and elevated dead leaves, which can dry out quickly in the sun or with low levels of humidity.
    • The live fuel moisture can also drop rapidly following frosts.
  • Burning with inadequate firebreaks, staff or equipment or under the wrong conditions creates a significant risk of fires escaping to become wildfires.
  • Burning too frequently can lead to dominance of grasses.
  • Burning small fires may result in a “honeypot effect” causing local overgrazing and poaching.


  • The burning or cutting of vegetation to increase structural diversity for grouse can provide benefits for other plant, bird and animal species on the moor.


Muirburn for grouse (Photo credit: The Heather Trust)