Small farmers in western Duhallow are suffering loss of income as most of the area is a designated special area of conservation, a TD has claimed.
In a Dáil question, Cork North West Fine Gael TD Áine Collins claimed these farmers cannot plant trees, put up wind turbines, or draw hen harrier subsidies as this scheme is closed.
Heritage Minister Jimmy Deenihan said the area concerned is the Stack’s to Mullaghareirk Mountains, West Limerick Hills, and the Mount Eagle Special Protection Area (SPA).
The European Commission has expressed concerns regarding compliance with the requirements of EU law in regard to afforestation and windfarm developments in these sites.
Data from 2010 showed an overall decrease in the number of breeding hen harriers in the six SPAs designated for the protection of the species. Forestry, agricultural practice, and windfarm development are the main pressures facing the species.
In response to these developments, Mr Deenihan’s department is formulating a hen harrier threat response plan under the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011.
It is working with the Department of Agriculture to explore ways forward that can meet the requirements of the EU directives and allow for ongoing forest management and afforestation in a structural way.
It will also consider the requirement for appropriate agri-environment supports to farmers under the Rural Development Programme. Because of the unavailability of resources, Mr Deenihan said his department has been unable, since 2010, to offer new applicants access to the National Parks and Wildlife Service’s Hen Harrier Farm Plan Scheme.
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