Almost 100 'illegal' wild fires notified to Commission by Irish Wildlife Trust

A fire rages close to the church Gougane Barra in county Cork last month. Photo: John Delea.
A fire rages close to the church Gougane Barra in county Cork last month. Photo: John Delea.
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FarmIreland Team

The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) has formally complained to the European Commission (EC) that the Irish government is failing in its duty under the Birds and Habitats Directives to protect threatened wildlife in our uplands and hills.

The IWT presented to the EC a table of 97 wild fires between the March 24 and May 22, 2017 from 19 counties in the republic (Kerry, Cork, Mayo, Galway, Waterford, Wicklow, Donegal, Louth, Carlow, Limerick, Wexford, Dublin, Tipperary, Sligo, Roscommon, Kildare, Cavan, Monaghan and Leitrim) which they deem illegal.

It says 39 of these (40%) were within sites designated under the Natura 2000 network (Special Areas of Conservation or Special Protection Areas under the EU’s Habitats/Birds Directive).

These include Killarney National Park, Wicklow Mountains National Park, Connemara, Mount Leinster in Carlow/Wexford, Mount Brandon in Kerry and the Ox Mountains in Sligo.

The trust says these areas are affected annually by wild fires and no action has been taken by the government to prevent them.

As a result, it highlights that all of the habitats of our hills were assessed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service as being in ‘bad’ condition while once common upland birds such as Curlew, Golden Eagle, Ring Ouzel, Nightjar, Twite and Hen Harrier are threatened with extinction.

Accoding to IWT, policy measures which would dramatically reduce the levels of fires include removing the requirement for farmers in uplands to have vegetation at ‘grazable height’ (something that is difficult to achieve without recourse to fire), designing new eligibility criteria which include options for rewilding the land, high nature value farming, or sustainable grazing systems with re-establishment of native woodlands.

Specific management plans for all Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas should be produced which sets out how our uplands can be restored. This should include removal/replacement of plantations of non-native coniferous trees.

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IWT Campaign Officer Pádraic Fogarty said Irish mountains have suffered an ecological catastrophe over the past 50 years.

"They are no longer the beautiful, wildlife-rich places they once were.

Landscapes and nature have been replaced with scorched land and plantations – which contribute to carbon emissions, pollution, erosion, flooding, loss of scenic value and livelihoods. This has happened not because of lack of resources or uncertain science – but a lack of political will," he said.

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