The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has acquired the sole management of over 4,500ha of land previously managed by Coillte in Co Mayo, the Irish Farmers Journal can reveal.
The land, one of the biggest transfers in the State’s recent history, is now held by the NPWS on a 99-year management agreement, the service’s western division regional manager Denis Strong confirmed.
The land has been added to the Wild Nephin National Park, bringing its total land mass to 17,000ha and making it the third-largest national park in the country.
Coillte confirmed that the land transfer included its forests in townlands Muingaghel, Derry Lower, Derry Upper, Tubrid More, Tubrid Beg, Altnabrocky, Tawnynahulty, Fiddaunnageeroge, Letterkeen, Lettertrask, Srahmore, Leamadartaun and Srahrevagh.
The area has one of the largest expanses of peatland in Europe.
“It was the largest single block of coniferous forest in the country. This [nature restoration] won’t be completed at this scale anywhere else in the country,” claimed Strong.
About 25% of the former Coillte land is to be rewet or “anything with more than 1m of peat where the water table is stable”, the NPWS representative confirmed. “Where it is extremely wet, we’re blocking drains and taking conifers off.”
Strong described how meetings began in 2002 to “explore” bringing the area under the NPWS umbrella, as forestry yields weren’t “commercially viable”.
He said that Coillte scaled down commercial management of the land in 2009 and that, in the same year, drafting of a conversion plan commenced.
“It became apparent that Coillte’s objectives were different than ours. Coillte is a commercial company,” he said.
Then-Taoiseach Enda Kenny launched a joint management agreement in 2014, but this has transitioned to the NPWS’s sole management, as Coillte undertook a “four-year wind down” to finish out active felling licences.