Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Questions (559)

Michael Creed

Question:

559. Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position regarding an afforestation application in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9640/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The application for pre-planting approval submitted by the person named is located within a Special Protection Area (SPA) designated for the protection of the hen harrier. Because of restrictions that apply to planting and other developments within this designated area, it is not possible to approve the application to plant.

Any future afforestation within the SPA must take into account the results of recent Hen Harrier breeding and distribution surveys, the availability of suitable habitat, existing forest cover, age profile of existing forests, and the effects of other cumulative developments on hen harrier populations e.g. wind farms.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is in the process of developing a Threat Response Plan (TRP) for the conservation of Hen harriers. Forestry will form a significant element of the plan, particularly in relation to overall forest restructuring. Pending the completion of the TRP and forestry components therein, my Department is not in a position to make a determination on the potential impact of afforestation projects on Hen harriers within the SPA and is not, therefore, in a position to approve any afforestation projects within the SPA at this time. My Department is working with NPWS in the development of the TRP which will determine the circumstances in which further afforestation, if any, might be accommodated in Hen harrier SPAs without impacting on the conservation of the species.