The National Raised Bog SAC Management Plan 2017-2022, due to be published in the coming period subject to Government approval, will set out how the raised bog special areas of conservation are to be managed, conserved and restored and how the needs of turf cutters are to be addressed.
Within the framework of the Plan, my Department is considering the available options in terms of relocation of turf cutters to non-designated bogs and other alternatives and the invocation of certain provisions of the EU Habitats Directive. Under article 6.3 of the Directive consent could only be given to cut turf on a raised bog special area of conservation where it can be shown that such cutting will not have an adverse effect on the site. Under article 6.4 of the Directive consent could only be given to cut turf on a raised bog special area of conservation for imperative reasons of overriding public interest and where there are no suitable alternatives.
Scientific contractors engaged by my Department have undertaken a preliminary review of the eco-hydrological conditions present on Coolrain Bog special area of conservation to examine the potential for continued turf-cutting on the site in accordance with the provisions of the Habitats Directive. A separate Raised Bog Monitoring and Assessment Survey report was prepared to outline the current ecological condition and location of active raised bog habitat and other raised bog habitats, listed in Annex 1 of the Directive, on the site.
The results of these studies are being considered by my Department within the framework of the National Raised Bog SAC Management Plan 2017-2022.