IFA Farm Forestry Chairman, Pat Collins has said farmers are very angry at the lack of progress made with the Hen Harrier Threat Response Plan. He said it is inexcusable that the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has not held a meeting of the Consultative Committee in nearly thirteen months.
“Farmers who want to afforest in Hen Harrier SPAs have been banned from doing so since 2011, pending the completion of a Threat Response Plan” said Mr. Collins. “The ban on afforestation has marginalised farmers and has significantly devalued land, with many farmers seeing the sterilisation of their land and the loss of livelihood as their reward for protecting the Hen Harrier”.
Pat Collins said it is galling to farmers living within the Hen Harrier SPAs to see windfarm developments continue unabated, primarily by semi-state agencies, while local farmers are being denied an opportunity to earn a living by planting their a small portion of their land.
IFA is looking for the ban on afforestation to be removed and replaced with an assessment process that would evaluate the impacts of new planting on Hen Harrier conservation and habitat availability in the area. This would ensure a landscape designed to be continuously compatible with Hen Harrier conservation requirements and allow afforestation to continue at a reasonable level.
“Woodland expansion and Hen Harrier conservation are wholly compatible”, said Mr. Collins. “It requires responsible management of the forest resource at a landscape level to achieve a balanced age distribution to maintain a continuous supply of pre-thicket habitat for the conservation of the hen harrier”.