The Irish Wildlife Trust called this week for radical transformation of uplands management, after a week of wildfires which devastated habitats across Ireland.
The IWT said the Department of Agriculture confirming that farmers with burned land would not be eligible for the single farm payment has led to a reduction in fires in certain areas, but the message was not getting through to all.
The trust said the latest spate of fires may have been caused by farmers clearing land, acts of carelessness, or wanton vandalism.
It called for re-establishment of permanent, native woodlands; payments for not farming; incentives to move away from sheep and towards cattle; and large-scale restoration of peatland habitats, including drain-blocking and re-wetting.
Such measures are recommended, for landscapes to become wildlife-rich carbon sinks, and places of high scenic and amenity value, with natural water holding.
Instead, uplands are carbon sources, they lead to flooding and pollution, and they have few resources for wildlife, according to the IWT.
“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,” said an IWT spokesperson.
The worst of last week’s wildfires were in Co Donegal, where a massive gorse fire in the west of the county put homes at risk, only days after two homes were destroyed by fires in the county’s Annagry area.
There were also wildfires last week at Maulin in the Wicklow National Park, and the Sally Gap region; Achil Island, Co Mayo; Dollymount in Dublin; Co Clare; and several locations in Co Kerry, including Waterville, Glencar, Mangerton, and a fire earlier this week that closed one of the main roads out of Killarney and took more than four hours to extinguish.