Government’s latest biodiversity action plan lacks ‘aspiration’

Published by Niall Sargent on

October 5th, 2017

The Government’s latest biodiversity action plan released earlier today lacks aspiration, focus and strategy, Ireland’s leading environmental coalition has said.

The 2017-2021 National Biodiversity Action Plan was launched by Heritage Minister Heather Humphreys this morning at the National Botanic Gardens and outlines specific actions to protect biodiversity.

The Environmental Pillar, however, said that the proposals in the Plan “fall short” of what is needed to adequately halt biodiversity loss.

Over 90 per cent of our habitats have a ‘bad’ or ‘inadequate’ conservation status and over a quarter of Ireland’s breeding birds, including the once common corncrake and curlew, are in decline.

The 26-group strong coalition said that it tried to directly convey its fears over current biodiversity policy to the Minister, however, all meeting requests have been refused over the past two and a half years.

In a statement, the department said that “relevant sectors of society” were invited to “contribute to the drafting of the Plan, through a comprehensive public consultation process” earlier this year.

Despite members sitting on the NGO, academic and local authority-led Biodiversity Forum and contributing during the public consultation phase, the Pillar says its recommendations to the Plan were still not taken on board.

The Pillar added that the Action Plan relies too heavily on rehashed biodiversity requirements and called on the Government to act on “already well-founded data” on the threats to, and pressures on, our biodiversity.

The environmental coalition would like to see the establishment of a ring-fenced annual fund for priority species and habitat conservation projects, as well as a national hedgerow monitoring scheme and hedgerow conservation strategy.

“Biodiversity loss undermines the capacity of our environment to continue to provide society with essential services and undermines the green image which is the foundation for our farming and tourism sector,” said Michael Ewing, Coordinator of the Environmental Pillar.

He added: “With enough political will we can turn the tide on biodiversity loss and start to build and legacy which we can be proud to hand down to future generations.”

The Pillar also said that the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) must be properly resourced if it is to play its “pivotal role in implementing the objectives of the Plan”.

The NPWS is set to receive funding of just over €11m in 2017 which has to go toward running costs of six National Parks and 78 statutory Nature Reserves and conservation-related scientific surveys, among other tasks.

The department told The Green News that many actions in the Plan are already underway and are funded and that the Minister continues to actively work on effective funding for the area.

“The Department has appointed a significant number of staff to work as rangers in recent weeks; in addition, it is planning recruitment in other parts of the National Parks and Wildlife Service,” the Department said in a statement.

The Department said that the Minister has asked the Biodiversity Forum to “assist her in review of the implementation of the Plan” and that she wishes to see “effective enforcement of all relevant legislation and actions” in the Plan.

“It is beholden on the Minister to honour those words and agree to personally engage regularly and routinely with the environmental NGO sector,” said Neil Foulkes of the Hedge Laying Association of Ireland.

“However, this is something that [Ms Humphreys] has singularly failed to do during her tenure as Minister to date,” he added.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London