Wednesday, 6 November 2019
Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2016: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage
The 2014 review concluded that Ireland could more effectively achieve conservation of threatened raised bog habitat through focused protection and restoration of a reconfigured network, which, under the proposed new network, will be 765 ha, compared with an area of 694 ha in the current network. This restoration programme links with the peatland actions contained in the Government's climate action plan. Under the 2014 review, 36 existing NHAs are to remain designated. This includes seven sites which are to be divided, with part to be conserved and part dedesignated, and 46 NHAs which are to be dedesignated, including the relevant areas of the seven sites to be divided, where it has been judged that their conservation potential is expected to be marginal or that restoration would be prohibitively expensive for the conservation benefits achieved or both. Twenty-five currently undesignated raised bogs which are in public ownership or in respect of which there is reduced turf cutting pressure are to be proposed for designation. This is in order to make up for the loss of habitat within the NHA sites where turf cutting is to continue.
In summary, 61 sites are scheduled to be restored by the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department as raised bog NHAs in order to maintain or restore active raised bog habitat within these sites. There is a balance within the Bill, as regards the 2014 review of the raised bog NHA network, between the need to protect the environment, live up to our EU obligations and work with landowners and turf cutters, on whose lives these obligations can have a very real impact. I am concerned that amendment No. 49 would upset that balance and I am therefore not in a position to accept it.
I believe that the current condition, restoration potential and matters referred to in section 16(6) of the Act of 2000 would all be essential components of any future review of blanket bog NHAs. Therefore, I am prepared to accept amendment No. 50 on the understanding that an amendment on the matter may need to be moved in the name of the Minister when the Bill returns to the Dáil. The results of the review of the raised bog NHA network were published for public consultation in 2014. I will consider if the report to be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas should also be published for public consultation.