Protection of hen harriers costs farmers €22m per year
More than €22m per year will be required to compensate farmers whose land has been designated as a special protection area for hen harriers, an Oireachtas committee has heard.
The Irish Farmers with Designated Land (IFDL) presented the committee with five proposals to compensate farmers.
Up to 4,000 farmers have had their land devalued after it was designated as a special protection area for the birds. None of the lands affected can be used for forestation or the development of wind farms.
IFDL spokesperson Jason Fitzgerald said farmers were already receiving €15m to compensate for their now "worthless land" but that further measures were needed.
"There is somewhere in the region of €15m being paid out on the Glas (Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme) designated land already, so we think that it will be somewhere in the region of €7m to €10m," he said.
Committee chairperson Andrew Doyle said he could sympathise with the affected landowners because he did not understand why a blanket ban was required to protect hen harriers. "It would appear to me that animals and birds have been evolving and adapting for years," said Mr Doyle.
Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív said more needed to be done to protect rural industry.
"We have to maintain a balance between protection of the environment and the right of people to live in rural Ireland and that balance seems to be getting lost," he added.