On the edge of the urban fringe, the Belfast Hills are all too often the victim of malicious wildfires, particularly in its areas of upland heath. It is known that these are generally carried out by young people, with numbers of fires peaking during school holidays.
BHP currently maps the larger wildfires in the Belfast Hills providing some baseline data on previous fires, however we would be keen to involve young people in this process to enable them to see the damage done for themselves.
A survey was carried out in 2008 for BHP by Quercus on upland heath on Divis, Slievenacloy and Cave Hill giving heather height, % cover etc. This information can be compared to fire locations to assess the impact of fires on the heathland. There is also a need to undertake new surveys on the condition of the heathland.
We aim to:
- Give young people a greater appreciation of the upland heath habitat along with the plants, animals and birds that are found there, and the impact that wildfires have on this ecosystem. That this appreciation would result in less wildfires being started in the Belfast Hills, improving the biodiversity and aesthetic quality of the sites.
- Map out all wildfires in the Belfast Hills Area, providing a bigger picture of targeted areas, impact of fires and potential management regimes required.
- Encourage young people to input into management plans, helping them to improve their local environment.
- Better site management enabling the spaces to be better used by local communities, in turn improving health and wellbeing.