Biodiversity Strategy & Strictly Protected Area

The declaration by Dáil Eireann in May 2019 of a National Biodiversity Emergency and the subsequent publication of the EU Biodiversity Strategy in May 2020 has brought into clear focus the challenge we all face in relation to protecting and restoring biodiversity for all life on the planet.

Considering the need to protect and enhance biodiversity there is a requirement and an opportunity for everyone to play a part irrespective of their situation. Notwithstanding this, across our countryside where biodiversity is rich and evident, there is a higher demand especially for landowners and farmers to work on delivering improved outcomes in relation to biodiversity for all of society.

Farmers are at the coal face of climate change. For two generations farmers have been advised by scientists and policy-makers to drain land, make fields bigger to accommodate machinery; replace animal manures with artificial fertilisers, use chemicals to control pests, replace grass with concentrates, and so on. Farmers are working on the land day in day out and they recognise the changes that have taken place, common bird species are no longer so  common, plants that used to grow in abundance are increasingly being confined to the margins or disappearing altogether, and insects and fish are disappearing. 

Farmers are willing to play their part, but we need genuine engagement with the State and the various State bodies to do so. We must also consider the requirement and right of farmers to see a return from their lands.

As landowners, farmers are a huge stakeholder in all of this but we must be supported by society and our governments. It is not fair to ask farmers to carry the load for significant swathes of society without fair help and financial recognition.

There is a lot of talk of a Just Transition to greener practices but that must be seen in deed as well as sound bytes. Farmers must be supported because policy change has a huge impact on farmers’ livelihoods. Coupled with this we need to acknowledge how at a macro level our agricultural sector as an indigenous industry is of vital strategic importance and one where decisions are made by locally based farmers and not in board rooms located on distant shores. The key here is to ensure that farmers are key stakeholders and are part of decision-making in relation to any biodiversity policy especially when it impacts their lands and livelihood. As custodians of the land farmers have the historical knowledge and know-how, making them best-placed to lead on decisions relating to Biodiversity policy.