An illegal wildfire swept through a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) in the Wicklow Mountains on Wednesday (April 15th), burning through the night until the early hours of the following morning.
The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) has written to three major farming organisations about the incident, in the hope that together they can adopt a new approach to land management and prevent wildfires.
The IWT stated that the damage of recent fires cannot be calculated fully, with the blaze obliterating nesting birds, insects and natural habitats while releasing vast quantities of smoke and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
They have asked for support from three major farming groups on the following measures:
- 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;
- 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;
- 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.
Commenting on these proposed measures, The IWT stated: “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,” they concluded.