The Review of Natural Heritage Areas (NHAs), which is available to download from my Department’s website at http://www.ahg.gov.ie/en/Publications, provides detail on future arrangements regarding turf cutting on those raised bog Natural Heritage Areas (NHAs) which are to be conserved. The review envisages the complete or partial de-designation of 46 existing NHAs where turf-cutting may continue into the future. In these de-designation cases, it will not be necessary for individuals to seek consent to cut turf. The effective cessation of turf cutting is on 36 NHAs by 1 January 2017, in order to preserve their conservation value. Management plans, which will be subject to environmental assessment, will be prepared for each site. Turf-cutters on these sites will require consent from my Department before cutting this year. The proposed designation of 25 new sites as raised bogs NHAs later this year is to replace the habitat lost through de-designation of the more heavily cut sites. Many of these proposed sites are in public ownership, or have relatively few or no turf cutters.
It may be noted that it has been possible to subdivide seven current NHAs in such a way as to allow for a continuation of turf-cutting in one part and conservation elsewhere on the site. This has resulted in a total of 82 separate units within the original 75 NHAs.
Any turf-cutter required to cease turf-cutting on an NHA is being offered compensatory measures similar to those available to turf-cutters from raised bog Special Areas of Conservation. Such compensation will be available to qualifying persons with effect from 2014. The maximum payment available under the scheme is €23,000 currently made up of payments of €1,500 per annum (index linked) over 15 years with a once-off incentive payment of €500, upon completion of a legal agreement with me as Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. As an alternative to financial payments and where feasible, qualifying turf cutters will be facilitated in relocating to alternative non-designated sites to continue cutting turf.
Qualifying applicants who wish to take up the option of relocation may receive compensation until such time as alternative sites can be provided and the terms of the relocation will take into account any compensation received under the compensation scheme. These applicants may opt for the payment of €1,500, index-linked, or a supply of 15 tonnes of cut turf per annum while awaiting relocation. Application forms for the compensation scheme or for permits to continue cutting over the next 3 years will be available shortly from my Department. Relevant contact details are published on my Department’s websites.