No access: IFA take stance against environmental groups using farmers land

Published by Brian Cunningham on

                                                                                                                                                                                  31st March 2016

The use of farmers land by certain environmental groups may be under threat, after the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) issued warnings instructing environmental organisations to stay off farmers land.  The two groups whom the IFA have issued the warning to are BirdWatch Ireland and  the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).  Farmers land is commonly used by environmental groups in Ireland for a variety of reasons, such as for assessing the health of wildlife populations in the form of survey work.  However, the IFA have now taken an assertive stance against such practices, with the association arguing that farmers have not received compensation for losses suffered in lands designated special areas of conservation for wildlife.

The campaign against access for environmental groups began recently, when IFA members started hanging posters on farmers land throughout the country.  This was confirmed in a report on the IFA website on Wednesday, which explained how a poster campaign was launched to warn the new government to address long-standing issues surrounding land designation.  IFA chairman Jim Bergin has argued that there has been significant restrictions on farming activities and other developments, due to the imposition of environmental designations.  The source of the discontent, however, is the failure for the government to honour a compensation agreement over habitats in Special Areas of Conversation, which was negotiated in the year 2003.  As Mr.Bergin stated: ”When designations were first imposed, commitments were given compensation would be paid where farmers suffered losses.  However, in recent years these commitments have not been honoured”.

BirdWatch Ireland have been quick n responding to the IFA’s warnings.  In a press release issued on Wednesday, BirdWatch expressed their surprise at the IFA’s launch of a poster campaign.  The environmental group reiterated the importance of surveying wildlife populations, but also stressed the good working relationship they enjoy with the IFA. To quote the organisation: ”We actively work to advocate financial support for farmers who are in a position to help wildlife, and we firmly believe that much more needs to be done by the state and the Irish government to benefit and support those farmers whose actions serve to protect and conserve wildlife and biodiversity”.

Furthermore, the NPWS have responded to claims that they obstructed flood alleviation works.  IFA SAC Project Team Chairman Tom Hurley had stated that the NPWS refused to allow remedial works to take place on rivers, resulting in severe flooding.  However, a statement released from the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht – of which NPWS is a section of – said that such claims were inaccurate, and that the department is strongly committed to working with the IFA and other farming organisations.

The IFA intends to continue post notice on farm gates all over the country, until the 2003 agreement is honoured by the new government.

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Brian Cunningham

Brian works as Communications Assistant with the Environmental Pillar. He has a background in sociology and recently graduated from an MA in International Relations and Conflict Studies.