With a national agenda for rewilding large areas of our country gathering pace through proposals outlined in the EU Biodiversity Strategy. The INHFA have pointed to recent fires in Killarney National Park as an insight into the potential dangers of what they maintain is a flawed policy. Micheal McDonnell who represents the organisation on the Irish Uplands Forum stated “how proposals outlined in the Biodiversity Strategy targeting a significant increase in the Natura 2000 designation’s (SAC & SPA) in addition to the implementation of a new designation type called strictly protected has the potential to radically alter our landscape.”
Where applied, the strictly protected designation will, he maintained “eliminate all human activity including agriculture and is effectively rewilding by another name. Under the EU Biodiversity Strategy at least 10% of our land base is targeted for this rewilding proposal.”
“Unfortunately, the simplistic and idealistic agenda pushed by many environmentalists fails spectacularly in recognising its own shortcomings with devastating consequences as illustrated by the wildfires in Killarney National Park” added McDonnell. “Despite being resourced at levels that most farmers could only dream of, the NPWS failed to prevent these fires from happening and when they did happen, they also failed in their ability to contain them. All of this had of course detrimental consequences for the biodiversity, not to mention the tons of carbon emitted from the fires” stated the INHFA representative.
These fires which he stressed “had nothing to do with farmers (despite suggestions by many keyboard warriors) are a clear indication of what can happen when the lands are not being managed ” .This is, he continued “currently the case in our National Parks where a rewilding policy is well established and may well be the future for at least 10% of the country by 2030.”
It is, stressed McDonnell “time for everyone to step back and take a wider view. If we continue to run down the cul-de-sac of rewilding, there will be consequences. While wildfires in any area are undesirable, wildfires that could endanger houses and people as what has happened in Portugal, Australia and California should be avoided at all costs.
In concluding McDonnell stated how rewilding at least 10% of our country through a strictly protected designation is not a solution. However, supporting our farmers and their families to manage these landscapes and reviewing the Natura 2000 restrictions which restricts their ability to do so, is.”