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Wednesday, 27 February, 2002, 00:41 GMT
Public millions to save peat bogs
Bog, BBC
English Nature will receive 10m to buy two moors
A multi-million pound deal has been secured to help halt the disappearance of some of the most valuable peat bog habitats in the UK.

The unprecedented scheme to be announced on Wednesday will use taxpayers' money to compensate a major peat extraction company for stopping its operations on three key sites.

Wildlife groups have been campaigning for years to stop large-scale cutting of peat from moorland sites in Britain to meet the huge demand for gardening products.

The bogs take thousands of years to form and support a unique range of plants and animals, including the boghopper beetle and a yellow fly called the hairy canary.

The BBC's environment correspondent Tim Hirsch says the government's wildlife advisers English Nature will be given around 10m to buy two moors in South Yorkshire and one in Cumbria which together form more than half of the UK's total peat production.

Financial fears

The American-based company Scotts, which currently runs the sites, will transfer its staff to conservation work to help restore the bogs to their original state.

The move has been welcomed by environmental groups and television gardener Alan Titchmarsh, who says good peat-free alternatives are now available for most jobs in the garden.

Bog, PA
Peat bogs are also popular with bog snorkellers
Last year, peat producers in Somerset warned that they faced financial ruin unless they were allowed to harvest more of the fossil fuel in the county.

In areas where Somerset sinks below sea level, peat provides local landowners with much-needed income. It is sold for use as a fuel and also as garden compost.

Peat producers say the land available from which to dig peat is running out and they need more.

But groups such as Friends of the Earth and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds have been campaigning for years for measures to stop the peat industry harvesting from wetlands.

Once dug, a field can not be reused for peat production and so the industry is seen by some environmentalists to be ruining the landscape.

See also:

05 Nov 01 | England
Peat industry 'needs' more ground
25 Aug 00 | UK
Protection for peat bogs
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