Sir, I wish to reply to Mr Jesmond Harding, Secretary, Butterfly Conservation Ireland who commented at length in your paper last week regarding Moanveanlagh Bog and the Marsh Fritillary butterfly.
The Marsh Fritillary is a protected species and that is a fact. Now as the Marsh Fritillary is not a raised bog species it would be reasonable to say that it was locally common in the Listowel area up into the early part of the last century. Then as lands were improved and its food source became scarce and confined to field hedgerows the butterfly began to colonise the bog margains of Moanveanlagh. It simply had nowhere else to go. The raised bog was already drying out as nature had produced two spectacular "Bog Bursts" at around that period.
This natural occurrence along with the age-old tradition of turfcutting was to provide a suitable and safe habitat for the Marsh Fritillary.
Around this time the Board of Works began to drain along the northern periphery of Moanveanlagh further drying out the bog. In fact it would be fair to say that the natural drying out of the bog through bog bursts and the work carried out by the Board of Works combined would have hastened the drying out process much more than the turf-cutting has ever done.
Conservationists sitting in offices do little to improve public relations between the people who own and work the land and the departments who make decisions without consultation. What is needed is a plan to work with the landowners and begin conservation in a practical way that removes the word ban out of the answer.
Other countries in the EU manage this quite well and lessons could be learned from Scotland and Northern Ireland where conservation of raised bogs and turf-cutting go hand in hand right up to present.
Regarding the remedies mentioned in Mr Harding's letter such as cutting back the invading growth periodically, yes this might work, but it leaves the solution hanging in mid-air. Who will be responsible for carrying out this extensive work and will it ever be delivered on at all?
Aspirations will not, no matter how well meaning deliver solutions. As for grazing the bog using cattle it is beyond belief that this remedy could ever have been thought up in relation to Moanveanlagh and if put into practice would lead to many of the unfortunate animals being lost in bog holes from the onset.
The present practice of turf-cutting is in harmony with nature but of course could be improved on and having observed the results over the years I have no doubt that Moanveanlagh is at present in safe hands. Improvements could be made with suitable advice and practical help from The National Parks and Wildlife staff and as I have mentioned this is working successfully in other countries where outright bans were never considered.
Since 1987 I have not noticed a decline in a single species on Moanveanlagh and the Large Heath as mentioned by Mr Harding is abundant on the drier margins though he is of the opinion that it can not tolerate these areas. I have also noted this species on much drier sites on the Sliabh Mish Mountain range to name but one other instance.
Finally, while much of the periphery of Moanveanlagh Bog is being referred to as degraded the impression should not be taken that these areas are poor in biodiversity this is far from the case, and the Marsh Fritillary is living proof of that.
Equally, the idea that these areas have been degraded solely through turf-cutting is quite erroneous.
Nature itself through bog bursts of which there are two major records for in the last century, and of course the work carried out by the Bord of Works to relieve flooding from surrounding areas did adversely play a part in the drying out process. Sincerely, John W. Lavery F.R.E.S. Holly Cottage, Ballaghadigue, Listowel.