Peatlands cover approximately 20% of the State’s land area and their use has implications across a wide spectrum of public policy. Intact peatlands produce an array of nature generated benefits to society known as eco-system services. These services provided by peatlands include water retention, which can reduce flooding, water filtration and supply, climate regulation via carbon storage and cultural benefits. Bogs are, of course, an important habitat in their own right and an important breeding ground for many species including highly threatened species such as the curlew.
The National Raised Bog Special Areas of Conservation Management Plan 2017-2022, approved by the Government and published in December 2017, sets 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. The national restoration programme for Ireland’s raised bog special areas of conservation and natural heritage areas is contained within this Plan. It is intended to restore all designated raised bogs within 3 cycles, with the first cycle operating for the duration of the Management Plan.
Work on the restoration programme has already begun with a €5.4m project ‘The Living Bog’ which is co-funded under the EU LIFE 2014-2020 programme. My Department is managing this project and is contributing €1.352m with the European Commission providing €4.056m. The Living Bog project aims to restore the favourable conservation condition and increase the area for active raised bog by 277 hectares on the 12 raised bog special area of conservation project sites. This will contribute to the national objective of achieving favourable conservation status for active raised bog in Ireland.
Areas within the protected raised bog network are in the ownership of State agencies. The National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department is undertaking restoration works on State owned lands within the network. The Department has worked in partnership with Coillte to complete some of the restoration measures.
Bord na Móna has recognised the importance of peatlands conservation for many years. Now, with its focus on decarbonisation, I understand that Bord na Móna has earmarked for conservation 4,000 hectares of degraded raised bog capable of regeneration and for the necessary restoration works to reverse the impacts of drainage. My Department liaises with Bord na Móna in relation to the restoration and rehabilitation plans of the company and looks forward to continuing to do so.
Bord na Móna is also represented on the Peatlands Council, the Peatlands Strategy Implementation Group and the Project Steering Group for the EU LIFE Living Bog project.