Wednesday, 6 November 2019
Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2016: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage
With amendment No. 49, we seek to require a report to be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas before any dedesignation orders of natural bogs can be made under the Act. This report would assess the rewetting potential of all natural heritage bogs. When Dr. Renou-Wilson was before the climate action committee last week, she clarified that the survey previously undertaken on raised bogs looked to restoration potential but did not consider rewetting. The ideal outcome for a bog is full restoration but rewetting is still of considerable value. While a bog which is restored may draw carbon from the air, a bog which is rewetted may still prevent carbon emission. Rewetting is a baseline activity. A total of 46 bogs were designated as having less restoration potential. Those bogs have not been examined specifically for their rewetting potential. We need to know that in any decisions made as to their NHA status, their rewetting potential has been considered. Let us not forget that there has been a direct cost to the State as a result of carbon emissions in terms of both environmental damage and fines paid. These costs will significantly outweigh compensation payments being paid to landowners with raised bogs designated as NHAs. In the future we must move past compensation payments and towards giving landowners payments that actually support carbon sequestration and conservation on their land. We have consistently tried to remove blanket bogs from the Bill. A review over the course of 12 years was undertaken in respect of raised bogs but none was undertaken in respect of blanket bogs.
With amendment No. 50, we seek to set an overall survey and a baseline minimum. We need to ensure we do not simply allow for consultation over a particular bog on whether it is designated but rather that an overall survey is conducted in order that we know the total blanket bogland we have and its restoration or rewetting potential. This is essential before we look to the process that may lead to the dedesignation of boglands. All 75 raised bog NHAs were fully examined in the past but we have not had any similar examination of our blanket bogs, including rewetting and the other kinds of scientific criteria. This amendment would ensure we have a baseline. The amendment also relates to amendment No. 51. It would be very worrying if we provided a perverse incentive for dedesignation, whereby there would be intentional degradation of bogs in order to increase their likelihood of dedesignation. This must happen before any orders are made and I urge the Minister of State to accept this amendment.