Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Ceisteanna (478)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

478. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if she will give consideration to establishing a national peatlands park; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [53726/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Culture)

The National Peatlands Strategy provides a long term framework within which all of the peatlands within the State can be managed responsibly in order to optimise their social, environmental and economic contribution to the well-being of this and future generations. The 10 year strategy sets out a cross-governmental approach to managing issues that relate to peatlands, including compliance with EU environmental law, climate change, forestry, flood control, energy, nature conservation, planning, and agriculture. The strategy has been developed in partnership between relevant Government Departments/State bodies and key stakeholders through the Peatlands Council.

Action 28 of the National Peatlands Strategy sets out that a peatlands strategy implementation group would be tasked with considering the creation of a national peatlands park. As a starting point for such consideration, an examination was undertaken in 2017 of existing and potential visitor facilities in the ownership of public, semi-state and voluntary bodies. It was found that there were fifteen peatlands sites in Ireland with features to be expected in a peatlands park ranging from community sites such as Abbeyleix Bog in County Laois to larger peatlands parks such as Lough Boora, in County Offaly which is managed by Bord Na Móna.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department intends to undertake a feasibility study in 2020 in relation to the creation of a national peatlands/wetlands park and will continue to engage with the relevant agencies and other stakeholders on the matter.

The consideration of peatlands as an amenity forms part of my Department’s EU LIFE programme funded raised bog restoration project and the National Raised Bog Special Areas of Conservation Management Plan 2017-2022. The EU LIFE funded raised bog restoration project is supporting amenity development in a number of raised bog special areas of conservation. Planning is at an advanced stage for community based amenity developments in Ferbane, County Offaly and Mountbellew, County Galway, subject to the granting of planning permission.

The Peatlands Community Engagement Scheme, administered by my Department, has supported the development of a number of community led walking trails and looped walks, local area amenity improvements, education programmes along with a photographic exhibition, environmental surveys, an oral history project, signage, interpretative infrastructure and promotional material in relation to raised bogs in 2018 and 2019.