The Mullaghareirk is located within a Special Protection Area (SPA) designated for the protection of the hen harrier where restrictions apply to planting and other developments. 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.