Dáil Éireann - Volume 495 - 20 October, 1998
Written Answers. - Habitat Protection.
Mr. Sargent Mr. Sargent
292. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands the plans, if any, she has to afford protection to the merlin and the golden plover whose habitats are under threat from overgrazing; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20021/98]
Mr. Sargent Mr. Sargent
293. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands the plans, if any, she has to afford protection to the red grouse and the Greenland white-fronted goose, whose habitats are under threat from overgrazing of vulnerable peatland in the Owenduff-Nephin Beg complex in County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20022/98]
Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands (Miss De Valera) Síle de Valera
 Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands (Miss De Valera): I propose to take Questions Nos. 292 and 293 together.
Dúchas, the Heritage Service of my Department, has sought to protect the habitats of the species referred to by the Deputy through the designation of special protection areas (SPAs) under the EU Birds Directive and a land acquisition programme. In addition Dúchas also manages the National Parks with a view to the conservation of the natural habitats within their areas.
It is recognised that the increasing pressure from sheep overgrazing has led to a substantial deterioration of red grouse habitats. In the Owenduff/Nephin Beg complex Dúchas has pursued an extensive land acquisition policy and has acquired over 9,700 h. in the SPA. These purchases represent a significant contribution to the protection of the site, which will provide conservation dividends by assisting in the reduction of grazing pressures to sustainable levels.
In view of the necessity to prevent overgrazing problems, and to enable vegetation recovery in areas currently overgrazed, my Department and the Department of Agriculture and Food have jointly sought to alleviate and recover the situation. The rural environmental protection scheme, operated by the Department of Agriculture and Food was amended recently to include new provisions for the conservation of natural heritage areas and commonages. The revised scheme requires commonage framework plans to be prepared for each commonage; these plans will prescribe sustainable stocking levels for each commonage and specify other conservation measures designed to encourage the vegetation to recover.
Dáil Éireann 495 Written Answers. Habitat Protection.