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Rare species are making a comeback in midland bogs


Curlews are making a comeback in Westmeath

Curlews are making a comeback in Westmeath

Curlews are making a comeback in Westmeath

RARE butterflies, scarce orchid flowers and "red listed" bird species are beating the battle of extinction on midland bogs.

The marsh fritillary butterfly - the only butterfly protected by EU habitats directive - is now "colonising" on Bord na Móna cutaways.

The marsh helleborine - a pretty orchid native to Europe, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Siberia and Central Asia - has been found on boglands from Roscommon to Tipperary.

Meanwhile, the curlew - now one of rarest and most iconic birds of the rural Irish landscape - has been found on several sites where Bord na Móna are carrying out bog restoration. Seven breeding pairs were recently recorded on Ballydangan/Knock bog in Co Westmeath.

Gerry Ryan, head of land and property at Bord na Móna, equates the success to the company's inaugural Biodiversity Action Plan 2010-2015. "We have taken action to stabilise the cutaway peatlands by reblocking drains, introducing vegetation on to the peatland and, in some cases, putting fertiliser down to encourage willow to grow," he said.

"The plan was very successful because we regularly consulted with stakeholders, communities, local authorities including the National Parks and Wild Life Service, the Environmental Protection Agency and environmental NGOs to set out specific targets.

"Our activity has created situations where species that were previously threatened or are currently threatened have been promoted. Migratory birds travelling from Canada, including swans, were even found on our wetland bogs last winter," he said.

Over the past two decades, BNM have rehabilitated around 12,000 hectares of peatland - 15pc of its total landholdings (80,000 hectares).

Mr Ryan says the company will adopt the same approach to their new Biodiversity Action Plan 2016-2021, launched in April. "Our strategy, outlined last year in Sustainability 2030, is a vision of a future where Bord na Móna is a sustainable, profitable company, committed to protecting the environment and delivering benefits to the community and to our employees," he said.

"Our new biodiversity plan was developed on exactly the same basis as the first one with a series of ­consultations with all stakeholders and we are committed to going back to them at the end of every year to monitor progress," he said.

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