ICSA rural development chairman, Billy Gray has called for a complete re-think on how to protect the hen harrier, an endangered bird that is found in the East Clare/South Galway region. Recent extensive gorse fires in the area increased concerns for the long term future of the bird.
Mr Gray argues that the Government response to the hen harrier is a denial of reality which will not safeguard the bird but will continue to have a devastating impact on farmers with hen harrier designation.
“The GLAS scheme is of some help to farmers with smaller areas of designation, but it is inadequate for many farmers,” said Mr. Gray. “The ban on afforestation needs to be reviewed as there are considerable doubts about whether it is actually warranted or whether a more nuanced approach could yield better results. Most importantly, the Government needs to wake up to the reality that the hen harrier cannot thrive in rural communities if its presence represents an economic disaster for the very farmers who control the land that the bird selects.”
Experts on the hen harrier say that forestry plantations up to 12¨years old provide an ideal habitat.
“Given that some of the newer sitka plantations can be clear-felled in as little as 25 years, it seems that a managed forestry programme, with staggered plantations, could easily accommodate the hen harrier, especially if landowners were properly incentivised to keep some ground for agricultural purposes,” Mr Gray said.