Progress Made In Finding Relocation Solutions For Individual Bogs
|The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has addressed the Petitions Committee of the European Parliament to outline progress made in the protection of 53 raised bog Special Areas of Conservation in Ireland.
In its presentation, the Department outlined the complex background to the issue, informed the Committee on the work of the Peatlands Council and progress made in developing a Raised Bog SAC Management Plan, and updated members of the Committee on the enhanced compensation arrangements which have been put in place by Minister Jimmy Deenihan for affected turf cutters.
Under the compensation package eligible turf cutters can receive a payment of €1,500 per annum for 15 years – index linked and tax free – along with a sign up payment of €500. The total financial compensation package is therefore worth €23,000 and, to date, more than 2,300 applications for compensation have been received. Initial payments have been made in respect of 1,300 totalling approximately €1,950,000 in compensation paid in 2012.
In addition, in place of financial compensation, affected turf cutters can instead receive a delivery of turf to their home. 1,500 tonnes of turf is in the process of being delivered at present.
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Conor O’Raghallaigh, Director at the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht commented: "There is a deep social, economic and emotional bond between turf-cutters and their bogs. While only a small percentage of turf-cutters are affected by the cessation of turf-cutting on SACs, protecting these sites implies a significant imposition on these individuals. They have been asked to abandon a practice on their own land that in some cases goes back generations and to accept compensation or relocation to an alternative bog, for the good of the wider community.
"However, these sites do contain the best examples of an extraordinary and unique, but disappearing, habitat, which we are obliged to protect, not only arising from our legal obligations, but for the benefit of the wider community and for future generations.
"Progress has been made in finding long-term relocation solutions for individual bogs. Final agreements have been reached with turf cutters from three SACs. These pioneer sites have provided a robust template in how to manage the legal and practical complexities for such arrangements. Talks are ongoing between representatives of many of the remaining SACs with a view to reaching similar such solutions."
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