Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Questions (316)

Michael Creed

Question:

316. Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the position regarding the National Parks and Wildlife Service survey on the hen harrier at a location (details supplied); if additional lands will be sanctioned for afforestation in this area; the compensation available to land owners who face ongoing restrictions as to land use arising from the designation of their lands; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11028/13]

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Written answers (Question to Arts)

In 2010, my Department commissioned a survey of breeding Hen Harrier in Ireland. The findings of this survey indicated that the national population of this species appears to be stable since the previous national survey in 2005, but significant regional declines were noted, including for the Special Protection Area (SPA) at the location referred to by the Deputy, which has experienced a 35% decline in breeding pairs in that period. The Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is responsible for licensing afforestation, which must be done in compliance with relevant national and European legislation, including that relating to the protection of SPAs.

EU funding is made available to provide compensation for land-owners arising from restrictions related to SPAs and Special Areas of Conservation. This is disbursed by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine through the Rural Development Fund. In recent years, my Department has administered a small-scale farm plan scheme using Exchequer funds, which has supported farmers in adopting appropriate management practices in the Hen Harrier SPAs. However, due to budgetary constraints, the scheme is closed to new applicants.