Stakeholder involvement is critical in developing policy response to EU Biodiversity strategy says INHFA

Following the announcement by Minister Malcom Noonan that Ireland will submit our proposals to the EU Commission on the EU Biodiversity Strategy by the end of this year, the Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) have called for full stakeholder engagement in correspondence with the Minister.

Speaking on this, National President Vincent Roddy outlined how the EU Biodiversity Strategy which was launched in May 2020 “will be of critical importance to farming and rural Ireland which is why it has to be got right.”

The EU Biodiversity Strategy outlines demands that if applied will see the area of land designated as special area of conservation (SAC) and special protected areas (SPA) increase from 13% to 30%. In addition to this the Strategy also details the requirement for a new designation type called strictly protected on a minimum of 10% of our land area.

Roddy stated, “the SAC and SPA designations have impacted heavily on landowners, due mainly to the restrictions applied under the 38 Activities Requiring Consent (ARC’s). In addition to these restrictions the lack of engagement by the State, which has seen the majority of farmers still awaiting first correspondence and a management plan, some twenty five years after their lands were designated, has actually undermined the habitat status of many of these designated sites.”

“Any proposals to double the area designated SAC and SPA, when the capacity to support and manage them is clearly not there would be a flawed policy. So too, would any proposal to introduce a new designation that is much more restrictive and would impact more severely” added the INHFA Leader.

In their letter to Minister Noonan the INHFA called for “full engagement, especially with those that will be most impacted such as our farmers and local rural communities.” They went on to call for a process similar to the one adopted by the Department of Agriculture when developing Ireland’s CAP Plan. A process similar to this the letter stated “is vital, prior to the finalization of any submission from Ireland on the EU Biodiversity Strategy.”

The INHFA President expressed concern that “this could be signed and sealed without adequate consultation with the key stakeholders while the State uses the Citizens Assembly that is currently deliberating on Biodiversity as a pretense for public consultation.”