Protected Areas

Angry at the Government's new Regulations and hard line on the end to turf cutting on protected bogs, the Turf Cutters have withdraw from the Government's mediation structure, the Peatland's Council.

Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan is reported to have told councillors in Sligo that there was no possibility of turf cutting continuing within the existing boundaries of the SACs. ‘The SACs are gone', he is reported to have said.

FIE has called on the Government to use new powers to take immediate action to block the drainage network which is currently degrading these bog lands. Immediately, after drain closure, the natural water table of the bogs will begin to rise and the habitat be gradually be restored to its natural state.

‘If this drainage is stopped, not only will the conservation process begin but by next spring most of the affected bogs will be so wet that it will be impossible to bring heavy machinery into them. Not to begin the blocking of drains now will only allow the damage to continue but will facilitate the cutters proposed illegal actions.'

Full Press Release | Media coverage


NGOS SEEK DRAIN BLOCKING

The Turf Cutters and Contractors Association [TCCA] has withdrawn from the Government's mediation structure, the Peatland's Council.

The Council was established in April 2011 to assist the Minister in implementing the Government's decision to end turf cutting on 53 raised bog Special Areas of Conservation. It was to act as the key mediation structure, as envisaged in the Programme for Government, and was to oversee and advise the Minister on possible relocation of turf cutters, compensation, and rehabilitation.

On July 2 the Council issued a statement confirming that they had the secured the agreement of all the parties to the Government's decision to close the bogs.


The TCCA representatives said at Monday's 5th meeting of the Council they had been mandated to withdraw based on a ‘lack of faith' in Ministers Hogan and Deenihan and the Peatlands Council. The TCCA have continually argued that Special Area of Conservation boundaries should be amended in locations where alternative peat cutting sites could not be provided to allow cutting to continue. At a series of well-attended meetings around the midlands, the TCCA have been organising resistance against the ban for next season.

Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan is reported to have told councillors in Sligo that there was no possibility of turf cutting continuing within the existing boundaries of the SACs. ‘The SACs are gone', he is reported to have said.

Minister Dennihan recently met EU Commissioner Podzonick in Brussels for an hour-long meeting during which it is reported that the Commissioner displayed ‘some frustration' with the position of Ireland and of the Commission itself given the inaction from 1997 to 2009.

The Commissioner is reported to have told the Minister that they will not tolerate ongoing cutting in SACs and that the Commission will be enforcing the Habitats Directive in all member states, having similar meetings in Malta (hunting of wild birds) and Sweden (wolves).

NGOs, which have been proposing a Home Energy Package combining NPWS compensation funding with SEAI grants to total €16,000, are concerned that the Government has done nothing to begin to conserve the sites.

Friends of the Irish Environment, who published a Report in May on the ongoing cutting, said that ‘The Government now has the power to take immediate action to block the drainage network which is currently degrading these bog lands. Immediately, after drain closure, the natural water table of the bogs will begin to rise and the habitat be gradually be restored to its natural state.

‘If this drainage is stopped, not only will the conservation process begin but by next spring most of the affected bogs will be so wet that it will be impossible to bring heavy machinery into them. Not to begin the blocking of drains now will only allow the damage to continue but will facilitate the cutters proposed illegal actions.'

 

FIE has written to the Minister for the Environment pointing out a basic misinterpretation of EU law that the lobby group claims has undermined attempts to ensure the protection of designated nature conservation areas.

The Minister's Parks and Wildlife Service is insisting that an adverse impact must be proven before they will require the assessment of any possible damaging activity. Under an EU Court of justice ruling known as the ‘Waddenzee Judgment', an assessment must be made unless there is no reasonable scientific doubt as to the absence of such effects.

This critical difference has meant that again and again activities report to the Minister are ignored - from protection for the Hen harrier to the vast unregulated industrial extractions of peat.'

‘The Department of the Environment is knowingly infringing EU law on the basis of incorrect legal advice.

READ THE LETTER


As unprecedented wildfires destroy thousands of hectares of upland gorse and heather and scrub and put homes and lives at risk, 19 Environmental NGOs have written to the new Minster for Agriculture, Simon Coveney urging him to address ‘the economic incentive encouraging farmers to burn scrub land'. 

Stricter enforcement of the terms and conditions for Single Payments Scheme to farmers require areas of scrub and even any part of hedgerows growing into fields to be marked on the farmer's application and excluded from payments.

"The economic reality is that Ireland has interpreted the European requirements to mean strict enforcement of terms and conditions whereby only ‘utilisable areas' are eligible for payment.

The NGOs want these areas switched from Single Area Payments to a Forestry Transitional Scrub scheme, a measure that is revenue neutral but would encourage management of the areas and end the incentive to burn the land to qualify for grants.

NEW! ILLUSTRATED BRIEFING NOTE FOR EUROPEAN AGRICULTURAL DIRECTORATE

Press Release   |  Letter to the Minister


http://www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/cmsfiles/files/library/wildfire_briefing_note_for_european_commissions_directorate_general_for_agriculture.pdf

 

The owners of Stradcally Castle in County Waterford have received a Warning Letter from the Local Authority requiring them to restore a 10 hectare wetland to its undisturbed state. The owners had put in roads and planned to build a 10 meter bridge and surface the dykes for horse riding and walking.

The Department of the Environment had bravely appealed Waterford County Council's decision not allow the owners to retain the works and develop the site. But the Appeals Board, who reversed the Council's decision and vetoed the plans, has no powers to enforce its rulings.

That depends on the Local Authority, who having given permission in the first place were hardly likely to go after the owners. After a year of inaction, FIE filed a formal enforcement complaint and the Council has now issued a Warning Letter.

Developments in areas designated for nature conservation under European law in the last 10 years are occurring more and more around Ireland. These have, as the Appeals Borad said in this case "given rise to considerable potential for disturbance of wildlife by humans regularly entering previously undisturbed land."

Read the Press Release   |    Read the 8 November Council letters to FIE and to the owners