Today, 03/03/22, marks World Wildlife Day, which will be celebrated worldwide under the theme of “Recovering key species for ecosystem restoration”. To mark the day, I am urging the public to protect biodiversity, nature, and wildlife by engaging with programmes and initiatives administered in my Department.
The initiatives that allow the public to play their part in protecting wildlife include the following.
Funding schemes totaling €4m:
• The €2m Farm Plan scheme is accepting applications until 31/03, supporting landowners to deliver actions that benefit habitats and species in biodiversity areas of European and Irish importance
• Funding of up to €500,000 is available to communities through the Community Foundation for Ireland in partnership with the National Parks and Wildlife Service to develop a Community Biodiversity Plan. Communities will work with an ecologist to draw up a community biodiversity action plan within their local community or with local landowners.
• €1.5m in funding is available through the 2022 Local Biodiversity Action Fund - a 300% increase in funding for this scheme since 2019. This fund assists Local Authorities in the implementation of actions in the National Biodiversity Action Plan.
Events and public outreach:
Members of the public are invited to learn more about peatlands restoration by joining me virtually on 08/03/22 as I open the end of project conference for the EU LIFE Living Bog project (www.raisedbogs.ie). The public can also take a NPWS guided visit to Clara Bog SAC, Co. Offaly and Carrownagappul Bog SAC, Co. Galway on 09/03/22
Members of the public can also engage with World Wildlife Day by joining a live stream celebration on 03/03/22 at 14:00 (CET) at https://www.youtube.com/c/WorldWildlifeDay2022/live
World Wildlife Day is a great opportunity to take action for nature and today we’re highlighting some of the ways people can get involved, from the Farm Plan Scheme to community biodiversity action plans to Local Authority grants. Supporting key species and restoring ecosystems is this year’s theme and the National Parks and Wildlife Service in my Department plays an important role in this work. Recent assessments at the national, EU and global level – including this week’s IPCC report – show that this is more important than ever.
Following on from the Dáil’s declaration of a Biodiversity Emergency in 2019, our Programme for Government – Our Shared Future – set out objectives to promote and protect our biodiversity, working in a supportive and constructive way with organisations and communities all over the country, and also at the EU level. More recently, I was proud to be one of the EU Ministers to sign the Strasbourg Declaration on 25/02/2022, demonstrating political commitment to the biodiversity emergency. This Declaration underscores the European Union’s unprecedented ambition to protect, conserve and restore ecosystems and biodiversity and strengthen our capacity to take action.
New national biodiversity policy
My Department is currently developing Ireland’s Fourth National Biodiversity Action Plan (NBAP), with support from KPMG and Natural Capital Ireland, due to be published later this year. The action plan will set out a strategy to meet the urgent biodiversity conservation and restoration needs through a whole of Government, whole of society approach to biodiversity protection, informed by scientific evidence. Public consultation will go live in April, followed by a major biodiversity conference in June this year bringing together academics, scientists, businesses, environmental NGOs and the public to inform the development of our next NBAP.
The NPWS plays a crucial role in protecting our species and habitats to maintain and enhance populations of flora and fauna in Ireland. This includes their important scientific research and data collection; management of schemes to protect peatlands and support farm-level biodiversity; and designation and advice on the protection of habitats and species identified for nature conservation.
Recent NPWS activity to support Ireland’s biodiversity include the following.
- Updates to the Flora (Protection) Orders. These are made under Section 21 of the Wildlife Act 1976 to protect Ireland’s native flora. Following a review of the vascular plants protected under the current Flora (Protection) Order 2015, NPWS has recommended that an additional 25 vascular plants should be protected and a further 4 removed. The new Flora (Protection) Order 2022 will be signed this month.
- Work is also well advanced to confer the status of a ‘protected wild animal’ on the Basking Shark (Cetorhinus maximus) and an additional 43 invertebrate species. This requires making Regulations under Section 23(2)(a) of the Wildlife Act 1976. Where an animal is protected under Section 23 of the Act it is an offence to:
hunt a protected wild animal (unless under permission or licence granted by my Department)
injure a protected wild animal (unless done while hunting in accordance with a licence or exemption cited above), or
willfully interfere with or destroy the breeding or resting places of a protected wild animal.