An approach of conservation rather than preservation is needed to support Ireland’s biodiversity, according to the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA).
INHFA president Vincent Roddy said that conservation involves the active management and support of the growth of biodiversity and warned that the “currently applied policy of preservation has driven stagnation and the ongoing decay of biodiversity”.
He made his comments following the first meeting of a new citizens’ assembly to discuss and make recommendations on improving Irish biodiversity on Saturday.
Roddy said that, in his view, the last 20 years have been lost when it comes to biodiversity growth as the State, National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and environmental groups pursued unfavourable policy.
He said the outcome of this is “best illustrated across our natura 2000 network”.
“Here, based on NPWS reports, we have seen these designated natura habitats regress or remain static, despite being under the management and care of the NPWS”, he said.
The INHFA president explained that this “regression” has come about due to “ongoing policy that has undermined active management of these habitats with farmers compelled to operate within the 38 activities requiring consent (ARCs), while watching helplessly as the habitat status stagnates”.
The Roscommon farmer said that this evidence from natura sites provides a “valuable insight as to where we are on biodiversity and a pathway as to how we address it”.
He said it is “vital that those who have been tasked and paid to deliver on this acknowledge that the policies they have pursued have failed and change course”.
Roddy said that farmers all over the country are “willing to engage and work on improving the habitats that they first delivered and were deemed worthy of the prize of a designation”.
“However, this engagement must take on board their views and recognise their effort as ecologists and State bodies don’t have a monopoly of what works best and cannot be the only ones that get a financial reward,” he said.