A formal complaint has been lodged to the European Commission by the Irish Wildlife Trust over the government’s lack of protection for wildlife.
In late spring and early summer of this year the country was stricken with countrywide illegal wildfires. It is estimated that over 95 fires were started this year in total. These fires caused massive destruction and damage to Ireland’s already vulnerable ecosystems.
The Irish Wildlife Trust made the complaint as they say the government failed to act in accordance to the EU Birds and Habitats Directive. This is aimed at protecting wildlife on upland and hill regions. The wildfires were found in 19 counties across the country leaving many protected species left homeless.
It is estimated that 40% of these fires happened in areas designated under the Natura 2000 network. That means these sites are designated areas for protected and threatened species. These sites include areas such as the Killarney National Park, Wicklow Mountains National Park, Connemara, Mount Leinster in Carlow/Wexford, Mount Brandon in Kerry and the Ox Mountains in Sligo.
The Birds directive, first set up in 1979, was adopted to help protect all wild birds and their habitats. The Wildlife Trust launched criticism of the government for their failure to act to prevent these fires, with the areas affected annually. These fires have threatened the existence of upland birds such as Curlew, Golden Eagle, Ring Ouzel, Nightjar, Twite and the Hen Harrier.
The IWT called on the government to set up new policy measures to help reduce the high number of fires. They say this could be done by the removal of the rule requiring farmers to have vegetation at grazable heights. This is a task, they say, made difficult without resorting to fire.
“Irish mountains have suffered an ecological catastrophe over the past 50 years. They are no longer the beautiful, wildlife-rich places they once were. Landscapes and nature have been replaced with scorched land and plantations – which contribute to carbon emissions, pollution, erosion, flooding, loss of scenic value and livelihoods. This has happened not because of lack of resources or uncertain science – but a lack of political will”, said Padraic Fogarty the IWT campaign officer.