Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Questions (197, 198)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

199 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the total number and location of bogs throughout the country which are the subject of special areas of conservation or other conservation measures, the extent to which such affected bog lands are owned by locals with traditional turbary rights, the public sector or other private investors; whether he has studied the extent to which the relevant conservation measures have affected each sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35780/12]

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Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

200 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the total number and location of bogs in County Kildare which are the subject of special areas of conservation or nationally generated conservation measures; the extent to which such affected bog lands are owned by locals with traditional turbary rights, the public sector or other private investors; whether he has studied the extent to which the relevant conservation measures have affected each sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35781/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 199 and 200 together.

Some 53 raised bog special areas of conservation (SACs) have been designated for reasons of environmental protection under the EU Habitats Directive and 75 raised bog natural heritage areas (NHAs) have been designated under national law in accordance with the provisions of the Wildlife Acts. Some 50 blanket bog SACs and 73 blanket bog NHAs have also been designated. There are two raised bog SACs and two raised bog NHAs in County Kildare. Details of all raised bog and blanket bog SACs and NHAs, including those in County Kildare, can be found on my Department's website, www.npws.ie. The Government has put in place a compensation scheme for those affected by the cessation of turf cutting on raised bog SACs. This scheme now comprises a payment of €1,500 per year, index linked, for 15 years or, where feasible, relocation of turf cutters to non-designated bogs where they can continue to cut turf. Those wishing to relocate can avail of the financial payment or the delivery of 15 tonnes of cut turf per annum while relocation sites are identified and prepared. The costs of acquiring and preparing relocation sites will be met by the State. An additional once-off payment of €500 for qualifying turf cutters will be provided where legal agreements are signed with me, as Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

Commercial turf extraction has been prohibited on raised bog SACs and NHAs for some time. Private sector operators have received compensation for losses incurred arising from these restrictions. My Department has also operated a voluntary bog purchase scheme since 1999 and has completed sales for over 1,000 applicants under this scheme. In 2010, the then Government decided that turf cutting should come to an end on raised bog NHAs at the end of 2013. However, in accordance with the current Programme for Government, the situation regarding the 75 raised bog NHAs will be reviewed in conjunction with the Peatlands Council. I anticipate that the review will be completed prior to the commencement of the cutting season in 2014. I am advised that blanket bogs are less sensitive to the effects of turf cutting than raised bogs and a general cessation of turf cutting will not be required in these sites. My Department will shortly undertake further survey work in Ireland's blanket bogs with a view to putting in place management arrangements where such activities may continue, without compromising the conservation value of the sites, and in compliance with EU legal requirements.