A further push to secure an internationally-based biosphere status for Kerry, and Killarney in particular, continues to face objections from a conservation organisation.
Kerry County Council is pursuing water harvesting — especially in hotels — increased pedestrianisation, more cycling lanes and solar heating as part of a bid to hold onto its Unesco “biosphere reserve status” awarded in 1982 for Killarney National Park.
However, the Irish Wildlife Trust has dismissed the proposed moves as a “branding exercise” and “greenwashing” and may oppose Kerry’s application.
Currently, the State-run park is one of only two places in Ireland to hold the biosphere designation and it does so alongside Dublin Bay, which also had to expand its territory from North Bull Island to retain the status.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service which manages the Killarney public amenity was told by Unesco, earlier this year, it must reapply to retain its designation.
The NPWS was told it must include a much wider buffer area which would include sites outside the park.
Large areas of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks mountains and valleys, along with special areas of conservation and privately owned lands, have been included in an application put forward by the NPWS and Kerry County Council.
The Irish Wildlife Trust claims out-of-control rhododendron, along with deer, have degraded the ancient woodlands and wildfires had caused huge damage along the borders of the 25,000-acre park and its buffer zone.
The trust said it has serious concerns about the lack of public consultation in relation to the inclusion of a wider area.
Farmers’ organisation, the IFA have also complained that their members were not consulted, even though their lands were to be included.
IWT campaigns officer Padraic Fogarty said: “We strongly support the idea of a Unesco ‘Kerry Biosphere’ that recognises excellence in landscape management for people and wildlife.
“However, we do not want another branding exercise that will grant the award before we can have confidence that the major problems — over-grazing and lack of regeneration in the forest, hillside burning, invasive species, mismanagement of the native Red Deer population among them — are being earnestly addressed.
“For now, we have written to Unesco firmly opposing the granting of a new ‘biosphere’ status in advance of these developments.”
Mr Fogarty said the Killarney National Park and its surrounds was “a very special place locally, nationally and internationally”.
“Unfortunately, in Ireland, we have too much experience of ‘greenwashing’ – where an environmental label is applied without any meaningful conservation actions to back it up,” he said.
Killarney town manager Angela McAllen had outlined to a municipal authority the county council’s plan to increase its conservation measures in the tourist haven. Local councillor Michael Gleeson said water harvesting on all large buildings should be a condition of planning, particularly in hotels where a lot of water is used and a lot of money could be saved.
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