The Irish Wildlife Trust has called on farming organisations to support a new approach to land management

A massive, illegal wildfire has swept through the Wicklow Mountains Special Area of Conservation (SAC) through the evening of April 15th and the early hours of the 16th. This is just the latest in a series of destructive fires that have become the hallmark of the Irish spring – obliterating nesting birds, insects and natural habitats while releasing vast quantities of smoke and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. These fires result in incalculable environmental damage and present a real threat to those living nearby or to those who have to tackle the flames through the destruction of property or the inhalation of noxious fumes. What will it take to end this cycle of ecocide?

The Irish Wildlife Trust has called on farming organisations to support a new approach to land management

The Irish Wildlife Trust has written to three of the large farming organisations asking for their support for the following three measures:  

  1. Payments for farmers under the Basic Payment Scheme to restore natural habitats (peatlands or native woodlands) – i.e. with no farm animals. This would tie into wider climate and biodiversity targets and eliminate the need to burn land in order to be eligible for farm payments.
  2. For farmers who would prefer to have animals, a High Nature Value scheme for the uplands should be rolled out. Although there are a number of such projects underway in various parts of the country, these are too small and localised to affect the scale of change required.
  3. Funding to the National Parks and Wildlife Service needs to be massively increased so they can provide the science and ecological advice to farmers as well as producing management plans for Natura 2000 sites and National Parks.

  Implementation of these policies would not solve all the problems facing our uplands but they would go a long way in creating an environment of positive engagement with farmers and wider communities. Penalties will only achieve so much – active conservation and creating a new vision for a nature and people-rich countryside is essential.

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