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Heritage Council classifies hare as a "declining species"
09 June 2005

The Heritage Council has become the latest to voice concern over the status of the Irish Hare population. In a review of the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS), the council describes the hare as a species in decline.

The review points to certain styles of farming as being crucial to achieving nature conservation objectives over large areas. Maintaining these will be the only effective, long term way to protect animals, plants and invertebrates, the statement outlines, adding that this applies "not only to a range of widespread, but declining, species, such as the cuckoo, yellowhammer or hare, but also to rarities, such as the marsh fritillary butterfly."

The Heritage Council goes on to identify several weaknesses in the REPS scheme which can adversely affect wildlife and habitats.

Among these are:

  • REPS planners putting farmers first instead of the aims of the scheme - "their appreciation of the ecology of farmland is coloured by their own, often agricultural, training."

  • The scheme engendering the attitude that “more wildlife means more restrictions” instead of conveying that more wildlife means more reasons for farmers to feel proud of their contribution to conservation.

  • REPS planners failing to recognise certain types of important habitats or areas of natural heritage value on farms.

The administration of the REPS scheme by Department of Agriculture staff is also pinpointed as being potentially problematic. The Heritage Council states: "Some of the most interesting elements of Ireland’s heritage do not conform to a simple pattern of clearly compartmentalised blocks, making for understandable administrative difficulties. However, this should not be seen as an excuse."

If you would like to read the full text of the REPS review, please visit:

Urgent action needed to halt biodiversity threat: Heritage Council

Ireland's plant and animal life are under severe pressure and we all need to work together to halt their decline. That was the stark message released by the Heritage Council on World Biodiversity Day on May 22nd.

The reasons for the biodiversity crisis are listed as including pollution, pesticides, household and industrial chemicals, intensive farming and loss of natural habitats. To combat the decline in species, the Heritage Council is calling for the government, local authorities, industry, farmers and the general public to "make rapid changes".

"Reductions in biodiversity in Ireland have serious health and socio-economic implications," commented Heritage Council Ecologist, Dr Liam Lysaght. "Everything in nature is linked into an intricate web and when a species goes into decline, it has a knock-on effect on other species and also on people. The contribution a healthy and diverse countryside makes to the quality of life and to tourism resources is incalculable."

In 2002, the government published a National Biodiversity Plan and Ireland, as an EU member state, is compelled to meet a target to halt biodiversity loss by 2010. The Heritage Council has called for increased funding for projects to meet the actions outlined in the plan. These include surveys to monitor endangered species and habitats, awareness raising campaigns, local management of biodiversity, agri-environment schemes and local biodiversity action plans.

According to the Heritage Council, the species under threat or in decline include the Irish hare, 95 bird species (e.g. the barn owl), the pearl mussel and at least 120 plant species. They hope that, with urgent action, such species will be spared the same fate as the corn bunting which has been extinct in Ireland since 1990.

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