Ireland is home to 28 species of land mammal, over 400 species of birds, more than 4,000 plant species and over 12,000 species of insect. If we want all of this to survive, we must ensure that there are enough suitable areas for all these species to flourish. Recent economic success in Ireland has placed strains never seen before on our environment. At the same time, farmers who own the land where much of our wildlife resides are themselves facing an uncertain and difficult future. As agriculture changes, conditions for much of our wildlife will also change. While technological advances provide new environmental opportunities, for example, windfarms provide great possibilities for green energy but these also cost in disturbance in hitherto isolated and untouched mountain areas. Conserving species in their natural habitats requires a strategic approach to succeed. One of these is to ensure the adequate conservation of habitats where many of our plants and animals live. Rare and fragile species such as the corncrake and the blue cornflower were found all over the country 50 years ago but now have almost disappeared, the demise of these species is linked to change in agricultural practices. To succeed, in conserving our native species we need the support of landowners and people who use or visit the land. Ireland aims to conserve habitats and species, through designation of conservation areas. This is required of us under European law and our own national laws. The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is responsible for the designation of conservation sites in Ireland. The Department works with farmers, other landowners and users and national and local authorities, trying to achieve the best balance between farming and land-use on the one hand, and requirements for conserving nature in these selected areas, on the other. So far we have mentioned only the land. There is a great array of life in our seas, which few of us ever witness. This too is being affected in a variety of ways, as we seize opportunities for new activities in our coastal and offshore waters; and this too requires protection. The three main types of designation are:
• Natural Heritage Area (NHA)
• Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
• Special Protection Area (SPA)
Other relevant conservation designations are:
A Nature Reserve is an area of importance to wildlife, which is protected under Ministerial order. There are currently 78 Statutory Nature Reserves. Most are owned by the State but some are owned by organisations or private landowners. Those interested in acquiring statutory protection for their lands can seek advice on this matter from the Department.
Flora Protection Order
Under the Wildlife Act, 1976, particular plants are protected under a Flora Protection Order. It is an offence to cut, uproot or damage these plants unless under licence from the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and local Government. It is also an offence to willfully damage or interfere with the habitat in any way except under licence. The Flora Protection Order lists 68 species for strict protection.
Refuge for Fauna or Flora
Under the Wildlife Acts, the Minister of the Department of the Environment Heritage and Local Government may designate Refuges for wild birds or wild animals or flora and impose protective measures to conserve both the species and their habitats. Seven such refuges already exist; they are mainly islands or cliff faces.
These sanctuaries are areas that have been excluded from the – Open Season Order, so that game birds can rest and feed undisturbed. There are 68 sanctuaries in the State. Shooting of game birds is not allowed in these sanctuaries.
The Wildlife Act, 1976, enables the Minister to enter into a voluntary management agreement with private landowners. Under these agreements landowners will manage their lands to ensure that desirable wildlife habitats are protected. Payment for such responsible management may be agreed. However, the number and type of such agreements depends on the resources available to the Department at anytime.
– Protected Sites
– NHA Site Synopsis
– SAC Site Synopsis
– SPA Site Synopsis
– Lough Derravarragh