This Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association are commencing an awareness campaign on the concerning implications of new EU land designations. The Mayo launch of the campaign was held in Keenagh, Ballina on Saturday where children and teenagers highlighted the future threat posed by these designations both to farming and their communities.
Speaking after the launch INHFA President Colm O’Donnell outlined details of the EU Biodiversity Strategy which will increase the area of land designated SAC or SPA from 13% up to 30% as well as introducing a new designation titled strictly protected which will be applied on a minimum of 10% of the countries land base.
The new strictly protected designation where applied will the INHFA President maintains have major implications for farming, business and community life and is a rewilding proposal by another name.
With this designation targeted at carbon rich soils (peatlands) western counties stated O’Donnell “see large areas of land sterilised as farming activity is ended.” In addition to this there will he continued “be major implications for community and business development in areas where this is applied as planning permission for new houses, businesses or public infrastructure such as roads and water treatment plants will be impossible to obtain.”
In addressing suggestions made by some that the organisation could be over exaggerating the threat the farm leader pointed to the designations currently in place and the impact they are having. In detailing just two, the proposed ring road for Galway city has he stated “not yet happened and is unlikely to on the current route because of an SAC designation, while in South Sligo 17,000 people remain on a boil water notice because of the delays in the building of a water treatment plant due to another SAC designation.
Of course for farmers dealing with these designations, the 39 actions requiring consent has restricted their ability to farm their lands and very often failed to deliver positive environmental outcomes. This has happened due to the lack of regard given to current farming systems many of which were low input, extensive and often delivered a much better environmental outcome prior to designation.
While detailing the various examples O’Donnell stressed how “the current SAC and SPA designations are category 4 designations but, the proposed strictly protected designation is a category 1a designation making it the most restrictive and one that requires the removal of any human activity and cessation of all projects including roads, water treatment plants etc.”
In concluding he referenced timelines around the introduction of this new designation stating “how proposed areas will be mapped and sent to Brussels by the end of this year which is why we have had to move on this now.”