Minister says natural ecosystems are being destroyed in Wicklow due to illegal burning

Patrols and aerial surveillance are being stepped up after devastating fires in the Wicklow Mountains over the past week. Illegal gorse burning has devastating effects on biodiversity.

In a word

The Minister responsible for the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), Malcolm Noonan, made the announcement as he toured some of the 300 hectares of scorched earth left from illegal fires in the highlands.

It has hit those responsible for the devastating underworld as vulnerable wildlife tries to reproduce.

“As night follows day, during the first extended period of dry weather, these fires are ignited,” Minister Noonan said.

“They are all illegal after March 1 and invariably they get – or are allowed to get – out of control.

“The people who put them in place, and I believe they are known in their communities, are a blight on society and their activities are costing us all.

“This mentality needs to change.”

Fires are a risk for biodiversity and health

In addition to the impact on already vulnerable wildlife, Noonan said these fires also impact the health and well-being of people, private property, tourism, emergency services, defense forces and communities. public funds.

“I visited Wicklow Mountains National Park, where over 300 hectares of natural habitat have been damaged and destroyed over the past few days by illegal upland fires,” Noonan added.

“The same scenes played out in other places around the country during the last Met Éireann Orange High Fire Risk alert.

“Let’s be clear: these fires do not occur naturally. “They are set deliberately, with little regard for the large-scale impacts on the health and well-being of local people, private property, tourism, emergency services, defense forces and even public purses.

“Not to mention the valuable wildlife and habitats being brutally burned and the consequent impact of soil mobilization and siltation on streams, rivers and lakes.

“While preventing these crimes is difficult due to the scale of the property involved, the sporadic occurrences of the fires, and the types of ignition mechanisms frequently deployed, those considering breaking the law in this manner should be aware that aerial surveillance operations using drones and helicopters have been increased to support early detection and deterrence,” he said.

It’s not just Wicklow that has suffered devastating fires. Donegal firefighters spent five hours battling a gorse fire in Inishowen yesterday.

Last Sunday it was reported that firefighters were sickened by the destruction of wildlife they witnessed as they struggled to control a blaze that ripped through a previously untouched wetland at Gorta Dubha in Kerry.

An orange condition high fire danger advisory has been in place from March 28 until today. The warning, issued by the Ministry of Agriculture, said: “Significant fire activity has been observed in recent days. The current ignition risks appear to be strongly associated with the burning of vegetation on areas used for the turf cutting with additional burns at altitude also observed.”

Biologist Éanna Ní Lamhna told NewsTalk that wildfires like these have a devastating impact on biodiversity.

Padraic Fogarty, head of campaigns at the Irish Wildlife Trust, said on Twitter that while he welcomed Noonan’s condemnation of illegal gorse burning, it wasn’t enough.

“There needs to be a sustained information/educational initiation on the risk of fire and the damage it causes,” Fogarty said on Twitter.

“Farmers need to hear loud and clear that their payments will not be affected by the presence of brush,” he added. “Burnt land should be ineligible for payments for five years.”

“Earth burning should be banned, not just during nesting season. It’s disastrous no matter when or how it’s done.”

Fogarty also said Ireland should urgently do more to restore peatlands and native forests which naturally reduce fire risk.

He also called on the farming community to speak out against this illegal activity.

What has been done?

The NPWS maintains increased ground patrols in all National Parks and Reserves during times of high fire risk.

“I have significantly increased the staff resources of the NPWS since taking office and the growth of the organization is a key priority for me.

“Clearly we need to strengthen our approach to this all-too-common danger.

“Along with my colleagues, Minister Darragh O’Brien and Minister Peter Burke, I will engage with Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue TD and Environment Minister Eamon Ryan TD to advance a response urgently coordinated.”