TO: THE MINISTER FOR ARTS, HERITAGE AND THE GAELTACHT, HEATHER HUMPHREYS TD
NO TO MORE SLASH AND BURN!
We ask you to reconsider your proposal to change the Wildlife Act to allow for the burning of vegetation in March and the cutting of hedgerows in August and establish proper hedgerow and upland management regimes that works for farming, road safety and wildlife.
Why is this important?
The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys TD, has proposed changes to the Wildlife Act that will allow for the burning of vegetation in March and the cutting of hedgerows in August. We challenge this decision by the Minister on the grounds of the serious impact it will have on a range of wildlife species and habitats in Ireland - especially highly-threatened nesting birds and pollinators found in our hedgerows and uplands. The Bill to facilitate these changes is going to be fast-tracked through the Oireachtas prior to the forthcoming General Election. We ask you to please add your name to halt this Bill and save Irish wildlife.
Our hedgerows are a vital refuge for many native wildlife species in a landscape with little native woodland compared to other countries. Hedgerows provide food, shelter, nesting sites, habitat corridors and are an essential component for flood defenses, preventing soil erosion and the silting of rivers as well as carbon sequestration. Our hedgerows and upland habitats need proper management, though. Landowners and farmers must be supported to manage them in a way that works for farming, road safety and wildlife. Under existing rules, landowners have six months between September and February to manage hedgerows and uplands effectively and there is provision for hedgecutting for safety on our roads. Therefore, this decision is unwarranted, will cause a significant blow to already threatened wildlife species and goes against advice submitted by Birdwatch Ireland, An Taisce and the Irish Wildlife Trust.
The change to the hedge-cutting dates will lead to further declines in populations of Red-listed Yellowhammer, Linnet and Greenfinch birds and reduce essential food supplies for pollinators, of which a third are threatened with extinction.
Our upland breeding birds are experiencing significant declines with several species now of Conservation Concern, including the Red-listed Curlew, Golden Plover and Meadow Pipit. Breeding Curlew have experienced an almost 80% decline in the last 40 years. How sad it will be to lose the Cry of the Curlew in our lifetimes. Many of our upland habitats are of international importance and protected under the EU Habitats Directive. These habitats also provide a range of benefits to humans such as carbon sequestration, water filtration and attenuation to protect against floods. Why then is the Minister supporting any burning in the uplands given the fragile state of its wildlife and habitats? By allowing burning of our uplands into March, nesting activities of sensitive upland ground-nesting birds will be affected along with the breeding success of these populations.
We ask you to join us in our campaign to persuade the Government to reverse this decision before the Heritage Bill 2016, is passed through the Oireachtas. Sign our petition to show your support for the wildlife that do not have a voice. If we do nothing, we risk losing yet more of our natural heritage here in Ireland
t has been described as the most beautiful riverside walks in these islands but plans to introduce a Blueway along the River Barrow in Kildare and Carlow have become contentious. Broadcaster, journalist, Carlow-native and keen walker, Olivia O'Leary, argues why the current walk should be left as it is.
In the eighties, I spent about two years commuting to London. Often, I’d meet an old friend coming the other way. It was Fintan Ryan from my home town of Borris, an airline pilot and engineer. He was coming back from England just for the day so he could walk along the River Barrow . That, he said, was what kept him sane. I’m the same.
Step out on the grassy way which is the Barrow towpath and you have stepped into another world.You can walk along the river for miles without hearing a car or a lorry. You can’t even hear the sound of your own footsteps. You’ll hear the birds; the rush of the weirs; the wind in the trees. And little by little you’ll let go of your worries because the river has cast its spell.
There are fewer and fewer places in the world today which are quiet; where you can sit and watch a heron guarding his weir; or the swifts zig-zagging like a mad trapeze act over and back across the river ;or see a white owl flying low along the trees as the night falls. There are otters above Ballytiglea Bridge and down at Ballinagrane Lock, where we swim in the summer. Once,my sister and I looked sideways to notice another dark brown head swimming beside us. We ignored the otter and the otter ignored us until it suddenly dived below the water. As laid down in ‘The Wind in the Willows’,river etiquette demands that one does not comment on the sudden appearance or disappearance of one’s friends.
The towpath along the Barrow Navigation and the Barrow Line of the Grand Canal runs for 114 kilometres from Lowtown in Co. Kildare to St. Mullins, in Co. Carlow. Originally built so that horses could tow barges , the path is now a grassy carpet which runs the length of the waterway. That gentle surface is heaven for walkers. Older people like me find that we can go ten to fifteen kilometres -and even further- without any sense of fatigue. The grassy sod maintains a pace that accommodates walkers, and joggers, and cyclists and anglers. No one goes so fast that they intimidate anybody else and there is a friendliness and a camaraderie along the towpath which is a large part of its charm.
That is why so many people who live along the river are opposed to Waterways Ireland’s proposals to replace the grassy sward with a hard surface. This is to accommodate bicycles. But those of us in the Save the Barrow Line group argue that bicycles use the towpath as it is and that a hard surface changes the peaceful nature of this wild path. It is less welcoming to the wild creatures and the wild flowers. It encourages speed which is not ideal on a riverside path. After floods-and the river floods most years-the grassy path will recover naturally in time- but a hard surface may end up potholed. We are all in favour of more walkers and canoeists and cyclists and anglers but the grassy towpath is the green frame for the river, part of its soft beauty. Why destroy the very beauty we want visitors to see?
We are lucky in Carlow that we have the towpath running right down through the county; through Carlow town and down to Milford with its beautiful weir. On to historic Leighlinbridge which marks the edge of the Pale, and which has the oldest bridge on the river dating back to the fourteenth century. On through Bagenalstown,and Goresbridge.
But it is at Ballytiglea Bridge, just above Borris, that my favourite part of the river comes. Park here and walk downriver with deep woods on either side. On your left, you are walking past Borris House demesne. Borris House is the home of the McMurrough Kavanaghs whose ancestor Art McMurrough Kavanagh was High King of Leinster and took on the armies of Richard 11 in the fourteenth century. You come soon to the boat house from which his descendant,Arthur McMurrough Kavanagh of Borris House, used to take off downriver to sail to London in his own boat, the’ Eva’, which he anchored below the House of Commons. Born without arms or legs, he was a wonderful horseman,and had colourful adventures all over the world before he became MP for the local area.He lived on his boat, which had been specially adapted for him, while attending parliament.
Then, after Bunnahown and the Mountain river, the river runs into open country and sunny Ballinagrane. The river is marked off in weirs and locks and the cut stone of the locks tells you that the granite mountain, Mt. Leinster, isn’t far away.
The woods follow on your left all the way from Clashganny to the double lock at Ballykeenan to Graignamanagh with its wonderfully restored 13th Cistercian Abbey of Duiske. You can still see the fleur de lys tiles of the original Abbey revealed below the present floor. The Romanesque processional doorway in the sacristy is one of the very finest examples of its kind.
The walk to St. Mullins has been called by environmentalist and filmmaker, Dick Warner, ‘the most beautiful riverside walk in these islands’. Passing Tinnehinch Castle, you plunge into a deep river valley with deciduous woods on either side reflected in the water- beautiful in spring and summer and glorious in the autumn. As you pass Carrigleade, you are leaving Brandon Hill behind you and soon you’re at the Dutch style lockhouse in St. Mullins. It’s another mile down the hard surface track to the village of St. Mullins but well worth the walk for great coffee and snacks in Martin O’Brien’s Muilleachan Cafe which is usually open from March to the end of October. There’s a wealth of history here so take a look at the Norman motte and bailey and the ruins of at least three ancient churches in the graveyard as well as the remains of a round tower.
This walk is all on the level so it’s easy for people of all ages and you can’t get lost! Wear comfortable shoes-your walking boots are best. Bring your swimming things - the best places are Clashganny , and Graig where there are lifeguards in high summer. The whole walk from Ballytiglea to St. Mullins will take you four to five hours, but you can break it up. It will take you an hour and a half to Clashganny where you can be picked up in the car park. From Clashganny to Graig is an hour and a bit. From Graig to St. Mullins is an hour and a half. You can get local taxis back to your car. Bicycles can be hired from the Waterside Guesthouse in Graig.; canoe trips organised with Charlie Horan’s company, ‘Go with the Flow’.
This place speaks to you, body and soul. It brings you nearer to nature, nearer to yourself. You’ll come back here. I can guarantee you that. You’ll come back again and again.
The recent flooding which has devastated so many communities around the country was record breaking for many reasons. The flooding came at the end of the warmest year globally on record. A very strong El Nino super charged by climate change has pummelled Ireland with six storms resulting in an entire winter's worth of rainfall falling during December alone.These conditions are unprecedented with many weather stations around the country recording their highest levels of rainfall on record according to Met Eireann.
Even with a reprieve in storms Ireland’s swollen rivers and flooded towns and countryside will continue to receive normal levels of winter rainfall. These kinds of extreme flooding events are to be expected according to climate change scientists and indeed they will only increase in frequency in line with increasing global greenhouse gas emissions.
What steps should be taken to alleviate the problem?
A number of ‘self-styled’ experts are appearing on the media telling us how to control the flooding on the River Shannon. An Taisce is not claiming such expertise but the answer must be based on the entire Shannon Catchment and must allow for the fact that climate change will increase the problems over coming years. The best answers will come from the Shannon CFRAM (Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management Study) being undertaken by the OPW although as yet climate risk is not included.
The CFRAM assessment treats the Shannon on a River Basin basis and will ‘Identify measures and options for managing flood risks, both in local high-risk areas and across the whole study area’.
Today’s Press Release from the European Commission explains the actual wording of Nature Directives and Natura Sites, and the limited usefulness of of dredging. It states:
" EU Nature Directives (Birds and Habitats) do not prevent measures being taken to protect lives and property. In particular they provide for situations of 'over-riding public interest' to permit activities that might damage a Natura 2000 site but which are necessary for human welfare. The Directives do however require an assessment of the options available before a conclusion is reached that such damage is unavoidable.
Dredging is not always the solution for flooding. It may help to sort out a local problem but it may also transport the problem downstream, sometimes from rural to urban areas where the damage on properties and economic activities can be much higher. Therefore the basin-wide approach included in EU policies is essential to find effective and long-term solutions."
An Taisce first called for a single authority for the Shannon river basin over 30 years ago, it is the basic step required for coherent flood management and now, with climate change, it is even more urgently required. Any Task Force or Single Authority that is formed must also allow for proper Public Participation in the form of Social, Community and Environmental groups.
One of the first reports of the Shannon CFRAMs is a Jacobs report hat summarises the current knowledge and references the many previous reports.
The important points of those reports are:
We need to slow down the speed with which water is moving into the Shannon and that will require change on a landscape/catchment basis. The drainage of our bogs and wetlands by Bord na Mona and through the arterial drainage scheme and various forestry programmes over the preceding decades have unquestionably exacerbated this winter’s floods.
The restoration of dredged and canalised tributaries can help to slow down flood waters and reduce the Impact of flooding by reducing peak flows within the main river.
Natural flood plains will need to be restored. Agri-environment schemes may need to be tailored to help farmers reduce surface run-off by blocking drains, planting native woodlands and reducing over grazing and burning in our uplands.
We will also need to improve the accuracy with which we can predict the approach of storms and pre-emptively increase flow through Ardnacrusha and Parteen Weir ahead of their arrival.
Apparently simple quick-fix flood protection measures such as dredging and 'hard engineering often have short-lived usefulness or unintended negative consequences . As communities in the UK are finding out, 'soft engineering', working with nature is often far more effective and, in the long-run, far less costly
IWT Press Release: Time to find solutions to extreme flooding and stop obsessing on EU nature laws
The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) is calling on politicians to find effective solutions to the problem of extreme flooding. With climate change likely to increase the frequency and intensity of these events it is more important than ever that we find long-term, cost effective solutions that allow us to adapt. Such solutions can be found in nature, particularly through the restoration of wetlands, bogs and native woodlands. Dredging of rivers is not a solution to extreme flooding even if it were practical along the River Shannon.
IWT Campaigns Officer Pádraic Fogarty says, “certain politicians and farming leaders are obsessing on the EU’s Habitats Directive and for some reason are fixated on river dredging. The problems we have today are exacerbated by the historic drainage of river catchments, infilling of wetlands and removal of bogs from the landscape. It is more than ironic that these are the same people who want to do nothing to halt the march of greenhouse gases from the agribusiness sector. It's time we found real solutions to this problem that work with nature and not against it.”
PROPERTY developer Paddy McKillen has bought a portion of the Booterstown Marsh site.
McKillen bought the 4.86 acre site for a repported €1m last weekend.
The site was originally owned by the property developer Bernard McNamara and sold for €6m at the height of the boom. He had proposed building an apartment complex on the land.
“It’s private property, so he is entitled to buy what he likes,” said Cllr Barry Ward (FG). “There isn’t any development potential in it. I think he’ll have terrible trouble getting planning permission.”
According to Cllr Ward, current protections in place could limit the development of the site and anything seen to interfere with the nearby bird sanctuary.
“I don’t understand how he’s going to make that million euro.”
Last week, preliminary clearing works were carried out on the site by a construction contractor, McHale, but it is unclear if this was linked to McKillen’s ownership of the land.
The works included clearing the land of Japanese knotweed, a common weed, and the erection of construction barriers around the site.
“They had no management plan, no barriers up to prevent any of the material from escaping,” said Rebecca Jeffares, a member of An Taisce, the national preservation body.
“There was no notice given to anybody, to adjoining land owners, to the National Parks and Wildlife Service; it’s a very carefree attitude.”
The McKillen deal was made official on Sunday, just a day after the work was said to be halted.
An Taisce, who oversee the nearby bird sanctuary, has raised issues pertaining to the conservation status of the site and the lack of a clear management plan by the contractor.
“It’s just in an area that is surrounded by areas of special conservation and special protection for birds, and they are all protected under the EU [regulations].
“What they did would have needed permission because they didn’t have licences,” said Jeffares.
The Booterstown site is split into two areas, both within the jurisdiction of Dublin City Council and outside it.
According to An Taisce, the Dublin City side has no conservation status designation, other than Nutley Stream, which is located near the land.
“I’m very surprised [about the land purchase] because I’m not sure what he wants to do there,” said Cllr Victor Boyhan (Ind).
“I would be against any development, I’d campaign against any commercial development on the site. There’s very little more that we can do at this point.”
Cllr Boyhan said McKillian has no permission to clear the land due to the lack of an appropriate licence.
The selling agent for the sale of the site was Frank McKnight Auctioneers and Real Estate Agents
2016 has begun and so has my big year. I am getting married, but also I am doing the @patchbirding challenge this year. The importance of being earnest!
3km2 of land, marsh and bay scanning started yesterday with some 18 wonderful species.
black headed gull
black tailed godwit
Unfortunatley, the camera was still on Christmas holidays, but the new Optima scope that Santa brought is a revelation for identification and observing the beauty of birds.
A recent tip from clues to outdoor signs puts heavy reliance on the light and identifying the grey or green legs of a greenshank in winter plumage opened up the wonder of twitching detail delight.
2016 is going to be a big year!
Here are a few New Year resolutions for you to consider. You can pick and choose or ignore them altogether!
Be proud of the fact that you love wildlife – it’s everyone else who is odd – and talk to people on buses, in queues, in the pub etc about wildlife. YOU can be a recruiter of more wildlife enthusiasts.
Get informed about the issues about which you care – pick one or two to start with – and make up your own mind about things. Nature conservation isn’t straightforward and your approach to it depends on your core values.
Speak out, use social media, go on a march or demonstration – become an agent for change.
Support the wildlife NGOs – donate and give to a cause YOU believe in.
Get involved with a wildlife network YOU care about. People are the agents of change. I recently joined the IWT Dublin Branch Comittee
Take Mark Boyle's advice. Wildlife is a victim of violence and persecution due to intensification of farming demands. YOU have power.
if you read one book this year read Mark Boyle's Drinking Molatov Cocktails with Ghandi.
Reduce your carbon footprint
Write to your TD once a month to keep her/him on their toes
Happy New Year, Wild Ones!
Do something different this year. Accept the mundane. Sit with sadness. Go outside even though it’s cold. Look the cashier in the eye and smile – for real. Notice the flash of a bird’s wings in flight – and notice how it sounds flying overhead. Put the television in the basement closet. Leave your phone at home. Grow some veg
Desmond Tutu summed it well when he said, 'Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good together that overwhelm the world.'"
What are you going to do differently this year?
Get out and enjoy wildlife! I'm doing a big year this year!
Credit to Mark Avery for the bones of the list