The Government's national parks strategy includes the establishment of a management plan process for each of the country's six national parks, at Killarney, Glenveagh, the Wicklow Mountains, Connemara, the Burren, and Ballycroy, County Mayo. Hitherto, Killarney National Park was the only national park subject to a management plan, which was published in 1990. That plan acted as an important catalyst and framework for the many improvements that have been made in the park in the ensuing period.
Changes in EU and national legislation since then, together with unprecedented levels of economic development, warrant a new and more participative approach to management planning for all our national parks. My Department therefore decided to establish a formalised consultative structure to elaborate draft management plans for each of the parks. This strategy involves the establishment of a national park liaison council for each park, three of which are already in place, in the Wicklow Mountains, Killarney and Connemara national parks. The role of these councils is to work with the national parks and wildlife service, NPWS, of my Department on preparing, and subsequently implementing, five-year management plans for the parks. Each draft plan will be the subject of widespread public consultation prior to final adoption and implementation. Once the management plan has been finalised and published, the council will continue to meet with park management to review the ongoing implementation of the plan.
An important element of this review process will involve the presentation by the NPWS regional manager of an annual business plan to the council outlining the park's proposed work programme for that year and the corresponding estimated cost involved, with direct reference to the strategies and targets elaborated in the plan. This review process is designed to achieve an inclusive and consultative approach to protecting and improving our national parks. Moreover, it is intended that, towards the end of the five-year implementation stage, a full assessment of progress achieved will be undertaken and a new management plan will be elaborated.
The management plan for each national park will be introduced on a phased basis. The management plan for the Wicklow Mountains National Park for 2005 to 2009 is the first plan under this strategy to have undergone the full cycle of approval by the park council, as well as a widespread public consultation process. Final editing of this plan is under way and I am hopeful that I will be in a position to formally launch it before the end of the year.
The draft management plan for Killarney National Park was launched by my predecessor in September 2004 and is available for public consultation. Following this, submissions received will be analysed and amendments made as considered appropriate. Once this process has been completed, I envisage that this plan will be published early in 2005.
Work is under way on the preparation of the draft management plans for Connemara and Glenveagh National Parks and a liaison council will soon be established for Glenveagh. My Department hopes to commence the management plan process for both the Burren National Park and Ballycroy National Park, County Mayo in 2005.