In 1992, by signing up to the EU’s Habitats Directive, Ireland agreed to protect some raised and blanket bog ecosystems in Special Areas of Conservation (SAC). This was transposed into Irish law in the late 1990s and, after a protracted battle, it was agreed that all turf-cutting on raised bog SACs would end in 2011. It was also agreed that management measures for the control of turf-cutting and the restoration of habitats on blanket bogs would come into force.
In 2020, following a Freedom of Information request, the IWT learned
that illegal turf-cutting had been underway that year on half
of the 57 SACs. In 2021 about a third
of these areas were targeted by turf-cutters while the total number of plots which were cut in SACs was similar across the two years. No enforcement action has been taken by the State to stop this damage.
Meanwhile, on blanket bogs, the EC has highlighted that there is still no regime in place to control turf-cutting operations that are leading to a deterioration of these SACs, in contravention of EU law.
The IWT has been highlighting the on-going destruction of raised bogs to the EC and Minister of State for Heritage & Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan and while we welcome today’s intervention by the EC we feel this is inadequate. The lethargic response of the Commission will mean by the time any action is taken there will be little left worth protecting.
IWT’s campaign officer, Pádraic Fogarty says “It’s hard to believe that we are still seeing the destruction of vitally important habitats decades after we committed to protecting them and over a decade since compensation packages were agreed with turf-cutters when the practice on raised bog SACs became illegal. We now have the farcical situation that EU money is being spent to restore raised bogs in some areas, while down the road the State is turning a blind eye to the illegal destruction of others.”
The information received by the IWT shows that the State has been closely monitoring turf-cutting on raised bogs but has done nothing to stop illegal activity. At a time when we should be investing heavily in restoring peatlands as biodiversity and climate champions, instead we continue to see these areas being wilfully excavated because the State cannot muster an appropriate response.
The IWT is awaiting an FoI response which will detail the extent of illegal turf-cutting on raised bog SACs in 2022.