The Department of Heritage has no plans to extend the country’s national parks at present, Minister of State for heritage Malcolm Noonan has said.
Extending the parks would see private farmland included in Ireland's six national parks.
The parks currently cover 65,000ha of land – Killarney National Park, Connemara National Park, Glenveagh National Park, Wicklow Mountains National Park, Burren National Park and Wild Nephin National Park.
The Department also manages a further 22,000ha of natural heritage sites.
“I am ever mindful of the need to focus on the core responsibilities relating to the management of our national parks which are managed from a conservation perspective and attract in excess of four million visitors annually,” the minister said in response to a parliamentary question from Bríd Smith this week.
“While my Department has no specific plans to expand the park network at present, we are actively ensuring the preservation, protection and presentation of the assets we already own,” he said.
Last week, the minister announced a strategic action plan for the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).
The NPWS is to receive an additional €55m in investment over the next three budgets, will undergo a restructuring and will employ an extra 60 staff.
As reported by the Irish Farmers Journal, the revamp of the NPWS will result in it having a “less adversarial approach” with farmers and one which is more “collaborative”, Minister Noonan said.
He added that it will result in more “boots on the ground” when it comes to the presence of rangers in national parks and across the country for engagement with farmers.