I've been able to deliver some really good news for nature - and great news for Carlow - this morning, with the announcement that a further 11 Local Authorities have been awarded funding for the appointment of biodiversity officers. This brings to 25 the total number of biodiversity officers that will be working with Local Authorities across Ireland to deliver local biodiversity action, with Kilkenny having received funding in 2022.
Along with Carlow, the latest tranche of funding will see biodiversity officers appointed in Cork, Donegal, Laois, Leitrim, Limerick, Longford, Louth, Meath, Monaghan, and Tipperary County Councils, and the new positions are expected to be filled by September 2023. Meanwhile, the 10 local authorities that received funding approval in September 2022 are at an advanced stage in recruiting.
We’re already seeing the tremendous impact that the four biodiversity officers in post in Fingal, Dún Laoghaire Rathdown, Galway and Dublin City Councils are having; we added 10 more late last year – including one for Kilkenny; and as of today we’re on track to get another 11 officers recruited. I’m delighted that Carlow is on that list.
Once they’re filled, these new posts will have an enormous impact on the ground in helping to deliver action for biodiversity, for wildlife and for habitats, and the new biodiversity officer will be available to support local communities in Carlow in their efforts too.
Having access to this kind of expertise at a local level is invaluable to communities that want to engage with this issue and take real, practical action to address the biodiversity crisis. It’s a really important additional resource to empower our local authorities in their work to protect and restore nature.
In addition to developing a Biodiversity Plan for their county or city, and potentially establishing a county or city biodiversity forum, the new biodiversity officers will be able to advise their local authority on biodiversity-related issues and the authority’s obligations in relation to protecting biodiversity. They will also promote a best-practice response to conservation efforts and help local authorities to fully integrate nature conservation into all of their policies and plans.
It's a really important initiative, delivered by the Heritage Council and the County and City Management Association (CCMA) with the support of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and the National Parks and Wildlife Service, and I'm grateful that each organisation shares my vision and my belief in the importance of this programme.