PRESS RELEASE: Radical transformation of our uplands required to overcome threat of wild fires

Apr 23
PRESS RELEASE: Radical transformation of our uplands required to overcome threat of wild fires

23 April 2019

The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) is calling for a radical transformation in how we manage our upland landscapes after another weekend of wild fires devastated habitats across Ireland. Last year the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine confirmed that farmers with burned land would not be eligible for the single farm payment. While we have had reports that this has led to a reduction in fires in certain areas, clearly the message is not getting through to all, or other factors are at play. Whether the latest spate of fires was caused by farmers clearing land, acts of carelessness or wanton vandalism it is now apparent that only a transformation of how we manage these mountain and peatland areas will get on top of the problem. Habitats and wildlife populations in these areas have already been devasted through years of annual wildfires, along with inappropriate plantation forestry and land drainage. This means the vegetation that does exist dries out quickly, leaving it especially vulnerable to out of control fires.

A new vision is urgently required. These landscapes should be wildlife rich, carbon sinks, naturally holding water and places of high scenic and amenity value. Instead they are carbon sources, lead to flooding and pollution and have few resources for wildlife. In order to turn things around the IWT suggests that farmers and landowners in these areas be given greater options for their land, including:
  • Re-establishment of permanent, native woodlands;
  • Payments for not farming;
  • Incentives to move away from sheep and towards cattle;
  • Large-scale restoration of peatland habitats, including drain-blocking and rewetting;

We also need to see greater public awareness of the threat fires poses to public and environmental health as well as the penalties to be incurred from breaking the law.

IWT Campaign Officer Pádraic Fogarty says “years of neglect and poor management have left our hills largely barren and part of the problem in the fight against climate change and species extinction. They should be part of the solution, but only a radical change of vision can turn things around.”

Last week new research was published which provides the science behind growing calls for a Global Deal for Nature, as a companion agreement to the Paris Climate Accord. This calls for increasing protected areas to 30% of the land (in Ireland the figure currently stands at around 12%) and an additional 20% as ‘climate stabilisation areas’, particularly through peatland and forest restoration [1]. The UN has also announced that 2020 will see the start of a Decade of Ecosystem Restoration as an “unparalleled opportunity for job creation, food security and addressing climate change”[2]. We hope that local communities and state authorities can see the opportunities in these initiatives as well as the increasing urgency of the climate and extinction crises

CONTACT:  Padraic Fogarty  – IWT’s Campaigns Officer –