14/03/13: Consultants Appointed to Progress National Raised Bog SAC Management Plan and NHA Review
Thursday, March 14th – Following a public tendering process, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has today signed a contract with RPS for the provision of scientific services which will underpin the development of a National Raised Bog SAC (Special Area of Conservation) Management Plan and a review of Natural Heritage Areas (NHAs).
Under the terms of the agreement, RPS will provide independent scientific and technical information and analysis to the Department. The work to be undertaken by the company will include topographical, hydrological and ecological survey and modelling work. This will be undertaken by a team of specialists from disciplines including raised bog eco-hydrology/hydrogeology, ecology, impact assessment, raised bog ecological assessment, surveying, management planning and environmental consultation and engagement.
The development of National Raised Bog SAC Management Plan is a core part of the Government response to the turf issue. A Peatlands Forum was held in 2012, under the Chairmanship of Justice Quirke, which recommended that a national plan be developed. A unanimous vote in Dáil Éireann also called for such a plan. The development of this plan was then agreed with the European Commission.
When completed, this plan can form the basis for a submission seeking flexibility, under the Habitats Directive (Article 6(4)), for the most difficult of bogs where relocation options may be limited.
Jimmy Deenihan TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, commented:
“This is an important development because it moves us closer to a long term solution to this issue. The development of a national plan for the management of our raised bogs has been agreed by the Dáil and with the Commission. Trying to unlock any flexibility for the most difficult bogs, in line with the Habitats Directive, can only take place in the context of having a clear, long term national plan for the management of these unique habitats.
“This is one part of our approach to this issue. Compensation, the delivery of turf to homes, and the provision of relocation bogs where affected cutters can continue to harvest turf are all well underway. So far, almost €3.4 million has now been spent on the compensation package including annual payments of €1,500 per applicant or deliveries of approximately 15 tonnes of turf to homes where turf cutters have taken this option.
“I hope that work on the scientific surveys can now begin immediately. It is 21 years since the Habitats Directive was signed, and between 11 and 16 years since these bogs were designated. The country needs a long term plan, so that the needs of turf cutters can be addressed and these unique sites can be preserved for future generations.”