Steps are being taken to designate special protection areas (SPAs) in respect of the hen harrier, one of Ireland’s rarest birds of prey, whose breeding population is mainly in the south-west, particularly around the Mullagharierk, Boggeragh, Ballyhoura, Nagle and Kilworth mountains.
IFA Farm Forestry chairman John Jackson said the IFA is not satisfied that enough scientific information has been collated to warrant such a drastic move. It is concerned that the Forest Service will act to restrict forestry in the areas prior to their designation by the NPWS.
Mr Jackson said it believes that over 1,000 townlands including prime forestry land in counties Clare, Cork, Galway, Kerry, Laois, Limerick, Monaghan, Offaly and Tipperary are likely to be affected by the proposed designations.
Local farmers are extremely concerned that any such restriction will not only limit their range of viable land use options but could potentially devalue the land.
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment Heritage and Local Government Batt O’Keeffe said in July that preparatory scientific work to confirm the suitability of possible sites and define their boundaries was underway and it was hoped to publish them by the end of the year.
A full consultation process will be undertaken where a site is formally proposed for designation.