Last December, the Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) asked the United Nations to suspend the designation of Killarney, the country’s first national park, as a biosphere reserve, amid concern about the management of the 10,129 hectare park’s woodlands and deer, as well as threats posed by invasive species and wildfires.
Since its designation, in 1982, not a single review of the park has been submitted by the NPWS to Unesco, as required, nor has Unesco demanded the periodic reviews. Green Party leader Eamon Ryan backed the IWT call, saying he had grave concerns for the park.
In May, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, together with Kerry County Council, submitted a proposal to Unesco to extend Killarney National Park to include Lough Leane and the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks and valleys, so as to retain the biosphere status.
The new biosphere would comprise 54,210 hectares —five times the current size — and drain an area of 560 sq km and be renamed the Kerry Biosphere Reserve.
The proposal sparked controversy. Farmers worried about potential planning voiced concerns about lack of consultation, as did the Irish Farmers’ Association.
However, last week, the proposed biosphere was not included in the list of 11 extensions and/or renamings approved by the international co-ordinating council MAB (Man and the Biosphere), which met in Paris for four days.
A spokesman said Killarney was not included on the list and the formal extension could not take place until 2018, when the council meets again. The National Parks and Wildlife Service did not provide a timeline for the new designation.