Wednesday, 6 November 2019
Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2016: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage
I thank the Senator. We had a good discussion on this on a number of occasions insofar as it relates to the environmental criteria and blanket bogs under the Bill. The definition of "environmental criteria" has been carefully drafted in consultation with the National Parks and Wildlife Service and, of course, the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. The Bill was drafted taking into account what has already been done for raised bogs. I refer to an eight-year review. The various attributes set out within the definition link to national conservation objectives and favourable conservation status for bog habitats and the selection criteria set out in Annex III of the habitats directive.These were utilised for the 2014 review and, as set out in the Bill, would feature in any future blanket bog review.
In determining the ecological condition of Ireland’s raised bog network for the 2014 review, the criteria used included the area of active raised bog, the geographic range, the habitat quality and ecological diversity. I envisage a similar approach will be used for any future NHA review based upon sound scientific evidence in accordance with the provisions of the Bill.
I would like to emphasise that I do not foresee that SACs would be used as comparators to justify the dedesignation of an NHA. For example, 75% of the national active raised bog conservation target is to come from the SAC network and the remainder will come from the proposed new NHA network. Any proposal to designate or dedesignate NHAs has to be done in a manner that ensures that the contribution of the NHA network to this target is achieved. The same approach would be adopted for any review of blanket bogs.
Within the 2014 NHA review, SACs were included in the assessment of Ireland's raised bog resource. The SAC sites were not used as comparators to justify the proposed dedesignation of NHAs and I envisage that would also be the case for any future reviews of blanket bogs.
I have indicated that departmental officials will liaise with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to see if "a comparison made between” within the definition of “environmental criteria” in the Bill, as per the Senators' concerns, could be replaced with “a consideration of” as proposed by the Senators. I hope that assists in allaying their concerns. I will check that with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel in respect of bringing forward an amendment in the Dáil.