Tuesday 21 May 2019

Fears over fires on Blackstairs Mountains

Pádraig Byrne

Major concerns have been expressed over a recent spate of fires that have taken place on the Blackstairs Mountains. Local farmers have said that they are having to be constantly vigilant in a bid to prevent another huge blaze the likes of which we've seen recently in Killarney National Park and Donegal.

The Blackstairs Farming Group says that the fires on the mountains have the potential to cause significant damage to local communities and properties, as well as posing major risks to wildlife in the picturesque region. As a result of fires, traditional grazing land for hill sheep farmers is lost and the recovery of burnt uplands is an extremely slow process, in many cases taking years to return.

While recent blazes on the Blackstairs have not been as damaging or disruptive as those in Kerry or Donegal, the Blackstairs Farming Group insist that this is only as a result of the diligence of the hill farming community and the local fire service.

While it is not known exactly what caused the recent fires on the Blackstairs, locals are of the opinion that they are being deliberately set.

'Burning of the uplands can have serious implications for farmer incomes due to the loss of grazing ground and direct payments,' said Chairman of the Blackstairs Farming Group Martin Shannon. 'This year it is an added and the real threat to the viability of farming in the Blackstairs following a difficult winter and the threat from Brexit uncertainty.'

While burning has long been one of the methods used by upland sheep farmers to manage the uplands and prevent areas from becoming overgrown, in 2017 the Blackstairs Farmers Group members signed an agreement not to burn their uplands, one which they say has been kept by all members. They are also working to develop their ties with the local fire service, the National Parks and Wildlife Services and Coillte to ensure that all future burning is well planned and controlled.

In a statement, the group called for greater action to be taken on people deliberately starting fires that could have devastating consequences. 'The people starting the recent deliberate and illegal fires on our mountain must be held liable and prosecuted,' they said.

Enniscorthy Guardian