Commission accuses Ireland of “constantly failing” to manage protected natural sites
THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION has claimed that Ireland is not managing its network of protected natural sites in accordance with EU law in proceedings brought before the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
Last year, the European Commission launched infringement proceedings against Ireland for failing to fulfill its obligations under EU environmental law to designate 217 ‘Sites of Community Interest’ (SCIs) as zones conservation specials (ZSC) within a strict six-year period.
In the documents which have just been published, the Commission states that Ireland “has generally and consistently failed to comply with [the Habitats Directive] by establishing conservation measures which are not sufficiently precise and detailed and do not respond to all the significant pressures and threats â. âMany sites had no conservation measures,â says the Commission.
The natural sites in question are part of the European Natura 2000 network of legally protected natural areas for certain habitats and species. Currently, just over 9,000 km, or 13% of Ireland’s land area, is included in the Natura 2000 network.
The sites are designated either as Special Conservation Areas (SACs) for the habitats and flora and fauna they support, or as Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for vulnerable bird species.
Prior to official designation as SACs, the proposed protected areas are designated as âSites of Community Interestâ or SCIs. Under the Habitats Directive, Member States must then designate protected areas as SACs under their national law within six years.
A Remarkable A survey published last month found that just over 270 sites are now legally designated as SAC, with more than 260 sites waiting between 12 and 22 years to be legally recognized in Ireland.
Source: Remarkable / Flourish
Lack of conservation measures
In April 2016, the European Commission called on Ireland to step up its efforts to designate SACs and a report from the Court of Auditors in 2017 revealed that we had designated only five of the 424 sites as SACs in January 2016 in the six years, which is off to a bad start. compared to most of the EU’s neighbors.
According to a document filed in the Official Journal of the European Union this morning, the Commission also claims that a large number of sites lack site-specific conservation objectives (SSCO).
EU states are required to develop conservation objectives specific to each protected site in order to maximize the conservation of habitats and species designated for protection. These objectives should then be translated into actions through management plans.
Where SSCOs have not yet been developed for the site, a Member State can use generic conservation targets. However, this is meant to be for a short period of time, as SSCOs are expected to be established within six years of a site being designated as a protected area.
An analysis of State files carried out by Remarkable last month showed that SSCOs have now been prepared for 327 of the 437 SACs in Ireland. However, the analysis also showed that OCSS had not been established within six years in more than 350 cases. In more than 260 of these cases, it took between 15 and 23 years for the state to set site-specific goals.
Source: Remarkable / Flourish
Failure to set conservation goals
For example, it took over 20 years for the state to establish SSCOs for Killarney National Park, Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, and the Caragh River watershed. This vast protected area includes more than 75,500 hectares (ha) of land, including cover peatlands, old-growth sessile oak forests and wet heathlands.
Other large protected sites such as the 49,000 ha Connemara Bog Complex SAC, Lough Corrib 25,000 ha SAC and the 30,000 ha Wicklow Mountains SAC have also waited over 15 years to receive site-specific conservation objectives.
The Remarkable the analysis also showed that COSS were only defined for 33 sites in the ASP network for protected bird species. In many of these cases, conservation targets were set well beyond the six-year timeframe, it took between 10 and 20 years to set in 18 cases, and more than 20 years in 11 cases.
Another 128 sites have only set up generic conservation objectives. More than 110 of these sites were classified as SPAs more than a decade ago, including 34 sites that have been waiting for more than 25 years for the implementation of site-specific measures.
This includes Puffin Island SPA and Skelligs SPA off the coast of County Kerry, listed in 1985 and 1986 respectively to protect the iconic, and now vulnerable puffin, as well as other important species such as the Kittiwake, the Fulmer and the manx shearwater.
According to the State plan for the protection of habitats and species in Natura 2000 sites for 2021-2027, a program of setting detailed conservation objectives by site for the remaining SPAs will be put in place during this period. .
At the end of August, the state issued a tender for a suitable candidate to help develop SSCOs for the remaining sites of the Irish SPA network. The contract will run from October to February next.
- This article was supported by reader contributions to Noteworthy, TheJournal’s community-led survey platform. If you like this and our other work, please consider contributing here.