The Review of Raised Bog Natural Heritage Area Network, published in January 2014, provides detail on arrangements regarding turf cutting on each of the 75 raised bog natural heritage areas. The Review concluded that Ireland could more effectively achieve conservation of threatened raised bog habitat through focused protection and restoration of a reconfigured network. This reconfigured network entails:
1. The cessation of turf-cutting on 36 existing natural heritage areas, which will remain designated - this includes 7 sites to be divided, with part to be conserved and part de-designated;
2. The complete de-designation of 46 natural heritage areas - including the relevant areas of the 7 sites to be divided - where it has been judged that their conservation potential is expected to be marginal and/or that restoration would be prohibitively expensive for the conservation benefits achieved. These sites include the site referred to in the Deputy’s Question. Domestic turf-cutting may continue on these sites, while larger scale or commercial turf cutting will continue to be regulated through other consent systems; and
3. The designation as natural heritage areas of 25 currently undesignated raised bogs, which are in public ownership or where there is reduced turf cutting pressure. These sites are to be proposed for designation to make up for the loss of habitat within the natural heritage area sites where turf cutting is to continue.
The Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2016, to give effect to the outcome of the 2014 Review, was presented to the Dáil on 21 July 2016 and was passed by that House on 13 December 2018.
The Bill, as passed by the Dáil Éireann, provides for me, as the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to complete the 2014 Review of Raised Bog Natural Heritage Area Network and to conduct a review or reviews of blanket bog natural heritage areas, at his or her discretion.
Section 4 of the Bill proposes to amend the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000 by the insertion of a new section 18A after section 18 of that Act. Within section 4 of the Bill, section 18A(6) states that where I as the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht make an order to amend or revoke a natural heritage area order which designated land as a natural heritage area, that I will place an advertisement in at least one local newspaper to inform the public of the making of the order and cause a copy of the order to be sent to (i) defined owners or occupiers of land (ii) defined holders of valid prospecting or exploration licences and (iii) various Ministers of the Government and various public authorities.
The Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2016 has completed Committee Stage in the Seanad Éireann and is scheduled for Report Stage in that House.