Tuesday, 28 September 2021
Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government
Special Areas of Conservation
354. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government the engagement he has had with the stakeholders of the Gearagh special area of conservation, County Cork in advancing the site-specific conservation objectives detailed in the 2016 report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46424/21]
The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of my Department completed and published detailed site-specific conservation objectives for the Gearagh SAC (000108) in September 2016.
The NPWS does not own or manage any part of this SAC, which is owned largely by the ESB. A management plan scoping exercise was undertaken by ESB International on behalf of the ESB in 2016/2017. The NPWS took part in the stakeholder group that contributed to the report produced as a result of that exercise.
Under the Habitats Directive, Ireland is obliged to report to the EU on the conservation status of all habitats and species of European Community interest, as listed in Annexes to the Directive. Monitoring of SACs are carried out by the NPWS on a cyclical basis. The most recent report was submitted to the EU in 2019 and is available on the NPWS website.
The priority habitat “Alluvial forests with Alder and Ash” is one of the qualifying interests of the Gearagh SAC and a monitoring site for this habitat is located within the SAC. It was most recently surveyed during the 2017-2018 monitoring period, when the area, structure and functions, and future prospects of the habitat in SAC were all assessed as favourable. This is in contrast with the national conservation status of the Alluvial forests habitat in Ireland, which is considered to be bad, and deteriorating.
The Gearagh SAC is also listed for the habitat “Rivers with muddy banks”. In addition to the NPWS survey, results of a 2018 botanical survey were made available to the NPWS by the ESB. The habitat was assessed as favourable in the Gearagh SAC.
The NPWS continues to engage with the ESB on the monitoring of this site. The positive findings from scientific surveys are indicators of a good management regime.