The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Mr John Gormley TD made regulations under the European Communities Acts to regulate recreational activities in nature sites and other areas where they are likely to disturb or damage species protected under EU law.
The Regulations are to address the increased pressures and instances of serious damage and disturbance being caused to nature sites and wildlife by activities such as quad biking, scrambling and jet-skiing. Examples of damage include the destruction of upland vegetation leading to erosion, the disturbance of ground-nesting birds and destruction of their nests, the swamping of the nests of water birds, and damage to sand dune systems leading to blow-outs and loss of dunes. In 2007 the European Court found that Ireland had not dealt adequately with the problem and will impose fines on Ireland if the damage continues.
The Regulations give the Minister power to restrict or to prohibit particular recreational activities in specified places where the protection of the nature sites or species requires, especially those sites or species protected under the Birds and Habitats Directives. The Minister will also have power to prepare threat response plans to address threats to sites and species posed by recreational and other activities. These plans and any restrictions will be published.
The Regulations are not aimed at agricultural or other occupational use of quads or other off-road vehicles or their use by the security or emergency services. Landowners will have the right to object to, or seek review of, a Ministerial direction affecting their land, and to seek exemption from the general application of a direction that affects their land where the Minister is satisfied that the scale and nature of the recreational activity that they propose to undertake will not damage a European nature site or pose a threat to protected species.