Written Answers. - Special Areas of Conservation.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

138 Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage Gaeltacht and the Islands her views on whether the new high priority accorded to the genetic experiments of crossing Kerry cattle with the highland breed is in conflict with the ethos of the Killarney National Park and the stated priority on conservation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10306/00]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

139 Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage Gaeltacht and the Islands the objective of the fenced off one kilometre area in the Terta area of the Killarney National Park; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10307/00]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

144 Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage Gaeltacht and the Islands her view on whether the erection of electric fencing in the Knockreer Demesne and the Muckross area of Killarney National Park is detrimental to the amenity value of the area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10315/00]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

145 Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage Gaeltacht and the Islands the reason increased numbers of cross-bred and other cattle are being grazed in the Knockreer Demesne and in the west meadow area of Killarney National Park; the owner of these cattle; if the grazing regime is having a detrimental effect on the lowland herd of red deer; the research conducted to ascertain the effects of this on the deer; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10316/00]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

146 Mrs. B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage Gaeltacht and the Islands the reason the REP scheme has not been introduced to the Killarney National Park; the advice, if any, sought from independent agricultural consultants with regard to the management of the pastureland of the Killarney National Park in an appropriately environmental way; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10317/00]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 138, 139, 144, 145 and 146 together.

The purpose of crossing of Kerry cattle with Highland cattle and other breeds lost from Ireland is to reinstate fitter cattle breeds that previously thrived in highland conditions in Ireland. The reinstated breeds will be better adapted to the climatic conditions in the upland areas of Killarney National Park and will help to restore the original vegetation on the mountain. These measures are wholly in keeping with the conservation ethos of Killarney National Park as outlined in the management plan for the park. The genetic experiments are part of the ongoing management of Killarney National Park and do not reflect any change in priority.

The purpose of the enclosure in the Ferta area of the Killarney National Park is to facilitate the control and maintenance of cattle grazing in the upland area of the park. This grazing regime is exploring how to maintain the bio-diversity of this habitat and is being done on a step by step basis. Electric fencing has to be erected to control the movement of cattle. Permanent fencing does not give the control and versatility required in such a visually sensitive environment.
The cattle – 190 Kerry cattle and 34 of other breeds – being grazed in the Knockreer Demesne and in the west meadow area of Killarney National Park are the property of Killarney National Park. I understand, however, that for a two and a half month period during this winter, approximately nine cattle belonging to the Muckross Traditional Farm grazed the west meadow area. The grazing numbers are consistent with the numbers required to manage the pasture to the standard required by the REPS. The purpose of the grazing regime is to maintain the bio-diversity of the grassland habitats. The removal of heavy grasses by the cattle facilitates deer feeding as deer are intermediate feeders and the cattle are roughage feeders. The grazing regime, therefore, has a beneficial effect on the deer herd. Research is carried out on an ongoing basis by qualified Dúchas staff. All the environmental issues at Knockreer are being monitored to maintain the proper balance between pasture, woodland, cattle and deer.
As Killarney National Park comprises State-owned land Dúchas does not draw down State funds under the REPS. I understand, however, that Dúchas follows the REPS guidelines in relation to pasture management in Killarney National Park and has sought advice from Teagasc and the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development with regard to fertiliser applications.