published their 2012 Report, ‘DEFENDING IRELAND’S PROTECTED RAISED BOGS FROM
ILLEGAL EXTRACTION’, showing that at least a third of Ireland’s 53 active
raised bog Natura 2000 sites have been mechanically cut so far this year.
17 of the 22 protected raised bogs surveyed from the air last week by
Friends of the Irish Environment have been cut this year. FIE’s 2012 survey
includes more than 500 online photographs with precise locations tagged.
government’s enforcement strategy is an abject failure. The State authorities
seem unequal to the task of protecting what, in relative terms, is a tiny
number of bogs. The European Commission’s softly–softly approach is failing to
protect some of Europe’s most important and
most threatened natural heritage areas. Ireland’s behaviour represents a
direct challenge to the rule of law in the EU.’
THE IRISH ENVIRONMENT
ILLEGAL TURF CUTTING
THE IRISH ENVIRONMENT RELEASES HUNDREDS OF PHOTOS OF ILLEGAL TURF CUTTING AND
FULL AERIAL SURVEY REPORT
the Irish Environment [FIE] have published their 2012 Report, ‘DEFENDING
IRELAND’S PROTECTED RAISED BOGS FROM ILLEGAL EXTRACTION’, showing that at least
a third of Ireland’s 53 active raised bog Natura 2000 sites have been
mechanically cut so far this year. 17 of the 22 protected
raised bogs surveyed from the air last week by FIE have been recently cut.
the actual figure is likely to be even higher, as less than half of the 53
protected bogs were covered by their aerial survey. Other bogs, such as
Minister Deenihan’s family bog Moanveanlagh in County
Kerry and Coolrain bog in County Laois,
are also reported recently cut. The Government has consistently
refused to release its own monitoring data to FIE.
enforcement strategy, over the past month there has been a rapid rise in the
number of protected bogs cut. On 1 May 2012 Minister Deenihan told the Dail
that “To date, there has been one significant incidence of cutting on one
protected bog, with more minor incidences on four others.” Only four weeks later
the number of sites has almost quadrupled,
some of them extensively cut. Even worse, 8 of the 17 sites we found cut this
year have in the past received EU LIFE funding for bog restoration.’
alleges that ‘The government’s enforcement strategy is an abject failure. The
State authorities seem unequal to the task of protecting what, in relative
terms, is a tiny number of bogs. The European Commission’s softly–softly
approach is failing to protect some of Europe’s
most important and most threatened natural heritage areas. Ireland’s
behaviour represents a direct challenge to the rule of law in the EU.’
the survey demonstrates that enforcement is significantly deficient and that
the damage is ongoing and widespread, in spite of repeated threats by the
National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) under the Habitats Directive and the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Environmental Liability
threat of withholding Single Farm Payments must be weighed against the Department’s
failure to ensure that all landowners and cutters have been identified. Illegal
cutters are refusing to give their names and addresses to Gardai who are
failing to address this obstruction of justice.
effective method of enforcement would be to confiscate machinery cutting
illegally on the bogs. The Dail passed legislation in 2011 giving this power to
authorised officers but it has not been used. Another option would be civil
injunctions against named individuals which would make any further cutting –
this year or subsequently – contempt of court.’
do these activities threaten the very survival of our best bogs – Ireland’s own
rainforests – but the extraction of turf on what is a commercial scale (despite
the ‘domestic’ image) damages a wide variety of wildlife, pollutes our drinking
water, and has substantial climate change impacts.’
survey includes more than 500 photographs with precise locations tagged online.
It was funded by the Patagonia Environmental Grants Fund of the Tides
Foundation, which was established to assist grassroots
groups that support efforts which force governments to abide by their
own environmental laws.
Aerial photographs from the survey and report may be
reproduced free of charge, provided photographs are attributed to Friends of
Verification and comment: Tony Lowes 027 74771 / 087
Irish language: Daithí Ó hÉalaithe 087 6178852
In their 2006 Report, “Assessment of impacts of turf
cutting on designated raised bogs”, Valverde et al. record “the reduction in
the original raised bog area [in Ireland] from 311,000ha to [the]
current area of around 18,000ha [a reduction of over 94%].” Ireland’s 2007
Article 17 report to the European Commission under the Habitats Directive
recorded a further decrease of 36% in active raised bog extent from 1994–2005.
Most recently, Ireland’s 4th
National Report to the Convention on Biological Diversity, released in May
2010, stated that “It is estimated that there has been a 99% loss of the
original area of actively growing raised bog in Ireland, and one–third of the
remaining 1% has been lost in the last 10 years.”
FIE is today publishing a Report on the disaster that took place last November at the Delphi Bridge in County Mayo when repair work was undertaken in spite of the unanimous scientific advice against it, putting at risk Ireland's biggest colony of fresh water pearl mussels. The National Parks and Wildlife Service violated EU law in giving permission after the Mayo County Council Manager threatened to sue them if they did not allow the work to go ahead, in spite of the repeated warnings of possible flood damage. On November 17th, heavy rainfall washed out the bridge, the repairs, and the sandbags, potentially wiping our Ireland's largest and only viable colony of fresh water pearl mussels. A protocol must be put in place to ensure that scientific opinion determines decisions on these projects.
Doubling of stocking rates in Disadvantaged Areas; Exclusion of non breeding horses
We are greatly concerned about your recently announced decision to double the stocking rate in Disadvantaged Areas from 0.15 LU/ha to 0.30 LU/ha and to hold this stock for six months rather than the previous three months.
You implicitly recognise the potential damage that these new rules will bring by suggesting that you might consider exemptions for farmers in sensitive areas such as commonages and areas designated for nature protection. In fact there should be no question whatsoever of increasing stocking rates in these areas, let alone on the other uplands with their vulnerable soils.
High stocking rates have led in the past to a host of environmental problems, including erosion, eutrophication, soil degradation, and increased carbon emissions as well as an adverse judgment from the European Court of Justice in 2002. The Directive under which this case was brought requires "upkeep and management in accordance with the ecological needs of habitats inside and outside the protected zones".
The exclusion of non breeding horses from stocking density calculations is another retrograde step, encouraging breeding at a time when there are so many unwanted horses across the country.
Taken together with your announcement that REPs rates are to be cut again and that no funding has been allocated to its replacement, AEOS, there is a clear danger that the factors which brought Ireland before the Court of Justice ten years ago may arise once more.
We urge you to reverse the requirement for any increase in stocking rates in Disadvantaged Areas.
High stocking rates got Ireland condemned by the EU Court of Justice. At that time Ireland promised REPS and cuts to stocking rates and the introcution of REPS to meet the requirement to maintain the 'ecological needs of habitats inside and outside the protected zones'
Now REPs is closed and funding has been allocated to its replacement, AEOS. There is a clear danger that the factors which brought Ireland before the Court of Justice ten years ago are coming back again.
We have also asked the Minister to reverse the Exclusion of non-breeding horses from stocking density calculations. This will encourage breeding of horses when there is a current serious surplus in Ireland.