Hen harrier group may sue the state
Farmers with lands included as special protection areas (SPAs) are preparing to take legal action against the State for compensation.
More than 300 farmers with land designated as SPAs for the hen harrier voted overwhelmingly for legal action to recover their losses at a meeting last week of the Irish Farmers with Designated Land (IFDL) in Adare, Co Limerick.
Kildare agricultural consultant, John Dore, described the hen harrier designation as "a major intrusion on property rights" of the farmers in question.
He said the designations meant fairly good land was now worth "almost nothing.
"In Co Galway 50pc of the total land area has been designated SPA - and it is up to 90pc in some parts of the county.
"SPA is a sleeping giant and hundreds of farmers don't yet know the impact it is going to have on their future," Mr Dore said.
"Restriction on planting this land is a big issue in West Limerick/Kerry/ Cork.
"This heavy type land was worth €4,000/ac for forestry. It is now worth €1,000 per acre - if you could get someone to buy it," he added.
"Farmers have been offered GLAS, but the designation of their land goes beyond GLAS. GLAS for SPAs is a temporary bandage on the main artery but it is not a solution," Mr Dore said.
IFDL chairman, Jason Fitzgerald, warned that farmers and National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) were on a collision course.
Mr Fitzgerald claimed that the restrictions around farming designated land were making "prisoners" of land owners.
He also slammed the lack of consultation with farmers during the designation process.
The meeting was attended by Bantry-based solicitor Brian Harrington and Dublin barrister David Browne who advised the IFDL on whether there were grounds for legally challenging the designations.
Over 80pc of those at the Adare meeting expressed support for establishing a 'fighting fund' to assess the possibility of a legal challenge to the land designations.
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