Ireland’s 3rd assessment on the status of listed habitats and species was submitted by my Department to the European Commission in April 2019.
In Ireland, 85% of habitats are reported as being in Unfavourable status. The main drivers are agricultural practices which negatively impact over 70% of habitats, particularly ecologically unsuitable grazing, abandonment and pollution. The Unfavourable status of many habitats is not surprising as this is the reason they have been listed on the Directive.
My Department is engaged in a range of targeted activities to address these issues at regional, national and EU level, and also liaises with other departments, particularly the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, to implement policy and practices which will help tackle the drivers of biodiversity loss.
The status of species is somewhat better: 57% assessed as Favourable and 30% assessed as being in Unfavourable status, with 72% demonstrating stable or improving trends while just 15% demonstrated on-going declining trends. Progress is being made and a number of species such as bats, otter, pine marten and grey seal are doing well.
I recently visited Boora in Co. Offaly and saw first-hand the conservation work being done by the NPWS. The Grey Partridge was on the verge of extinction in the late 1990s but following an intense programme of habitat management and nest protection, the population in the project area is now estimated to be around 800 birds today.
This is a remarkable story of hands-on conservation in action and demonstrates how a strong partnership between the NPWS and the local community can lead to the reversal of loss and to species recovery.
As part of the ongoing implementation of the National Biodiversity Action Plan 2017-2021, in 2018 I launched a grant scheme to assist local authorities with biodiversity projects in their areas that support actions in the Plan. A grant of €16,000 was made to Offaly County Council to support a range of local authority-led biodiversity projects.
Recognising the need for a coherent cross-sectoral response to the biodiversity crisis, earlier this year I announced our ‘Seeds for Nature’ , a range of commitments to be undertaken by public authorities and other stakeholders to drive implementation of actions in the Plan.