As the European Commission begins infringement proceedings against Ireland for failing to complete the designation requirements for its Special Areas of Conservation, it proposes to close another investigation into the protection of the fresh water pearl mussel on the basis of commitments given by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Coillte Teo., the State Forestry Board.
The new proceedings allege that Ireland has failed to complete the national legal protective regime for 400 of the SACs State’s within 6 years of their selection and for failing to set detailed site specific objectives for 300 of the sites.
Ireland’s new commitment to protect the fresh water pearl mussel are based on extensive investigations into examples provided by FIE 2013 – 2015, included forestry operations by Coillte Teo on the Glaskeen River in County Donegal, Mayo County Council’s repair of a bridge at Delphi on the Bundoragh River, the proposed N59 Maam Cross to Oughterard Road in Connemara, and felling along the river Lickey in Co. Waterford.
Coillte halted 28 felling operations during the investigation. No licences will be issued in the eight priority catchments for the mussel until Catchment Forestry Management Plans have been completed, including a structured programme of consultation, including the general public.
FIE’s intervention over felling in an ancient woodland in County Longford has led to the suspension of felling – but for how long?
While the Felling License issued for Castleforbes woodland last year had a condition preventing work during the bird nesting season from May to September, for some reason no conditions were put on the licences issued this year by the Forest Service. FIE has also seen photographs from last year of the stumps of huge ancient oaks and valuable ash trees removed in spite of the licence permitting only the removal of ‘poor quality stems’. This year’s licenses were limited to ‘non-native trees and shrubs’ while again FIE has photographs of mature native trees felled in a woodland first recorded in the 17th century. FIE was informed by the Forest Service that work was to recommence last week – but so far the contractors have not returned. We are doing our best to increase the pressure through public representatives and in a letter to the Minister.