Minister of State with responsibility for heritage Malcolm Noonan has called for a thorough investigation to be carried out by An Garda Síochána into the causes of a major fire along the Curraghline in Co Galway.
The fire occured on Wednesday evening and continued burning into Thursday.
Parts of the area are included in the Lough Corrib Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and the site is an important habitat for breeding waders, including the critically endangered curlew. The N84 Headford Road runs through the area.
Minister Noonan has tasked National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) staff to work with An Garda Síochána in its investigation of the cause of the fire. He added that these fires don’t start by themselves.
“This Galway fire is devastating news for all involved in conservation efforts to save the curlew, particularly those invested in the Curlew EIP project at Curraghline,” Minister Noonan said.
“This is a particularly dangerous time of year for fires in our natural heritage areas and we urge the public to report suspicious activity and to be vigilant themselves while using our national parks and nature reserves.
“We are in the depths of a biodiversity emergency and cannot afford to lose any more habitats to fire.”
This is our Corrib Curlew breeding sites burning tonight…from 5km+ away. Territory of multiple Cu and many other endangered bird sp., lots of other waders. SAC habitats. Huge carbon stores. N84 to headford closed. Total destruction. @CurlewEIP & farmers devastated…no words ?? pic.twitter.com/MK1egRYSrv— The Irish Breeding Curlew EIP (@CurlewEIP) April 27, 2022
He said NPWS takes these matters very seriously and in recent weeks, announced increased surveillance using drones and helicopters on key natural heritage sites and national parks.
A garda spokesperson told the Irish Farmers Journal that gardaí were made aware of the fire in in the early hours of Thursday morning
“Gardaí assisted with traffic management [on Thursday afternoon] as the Headford Road was closed due to the ongoing fire.”
BirdWatch Ireland has called on the minister to ensure that his department investigates the fire, which has the potential to seriously impact BirdWatch Ireland and local farmers' efforts to save breeding curlew in the area as part of the Deparment of Agriculture-funded Curlew EIP project.