The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan TD has signed a contract with RPS for the provision of scientific services which will underpin the development of a National Raised Bog SAC (Special Area of Conservation) Management Plan and a review of Natural Heritage Areas (NHAs). The deal was finalised late last week following a public tendering process.
RPS will now undertake topographical, hydrological and ecological surveys and modelling work all of which will be carried out by a team of specialists from disciplines including raised bog eco-hydrology/hydrogeology, ecology, impact assessment, raised bog ecological assessment, surveying, management planning and environmental consultation and engagement. The Department will be presented with independent, scientific and technical information and analysis on completion of the work.
The development of National Raised Bog SAC Management Plan is a core part of the Government response to the turf issue. It was propelled into action following the recommendations of Justice Quirke, Chairman of the Peatlands Forum, 2012 and a unanimous vote on the matter in Dáil Éireann, The development of this plan was then agreed with the European Commission.
According to the proposals for the National Plan, published in September 2012, it will “provide an opportunity to set out Ireland’s strategic approach to the conservation and restoration of its raised bog SACs and give clarity and confidence to all parties in regard to how Ireland will protect these sites and meet its obligations relating to the protection of these sites”.
When completed, the Plan can form the basis for a submission seeking flexibility, under the Habitats Directive (Article 6(4)), for the most difficult of bogs where relocation options may be limited.
Jimmy Deenihan TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, commented: “The development of a national plan for the management of our raised bogs has been agreed by the Dáil and with the Commission…. I hope that work on the scientific surveys can now begin immediately. It is 21 years since the Habitats Directive was signed, and between 11 and 16 years since these bogs were designated. The country needs a long term plan, so that the needs of turf cutters can be addressed and these unique sites can be preserved for future generations.”