A ‘national ethic’ of taking care of the countryside needs to be developed – Noonan

A “national ethic” needs to be developed when it comes to protecting wildlife, livestock and vegetation, according to the Minister of State with responsibility for heritage and electoral reform Malcolm Noonan.

A new government campaign has been launched to tackle the growing littering and dumping issue throughout Ireland, particularly in the countryside.

This campaign is part of a joint initiative between a number of bodies, including: the Department of Community and Rural Development; the Office of Public Works (OPW); Coillte; the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS); and Leave No Trace Ireland, amongst others.

Preserving the countryside for future generations

The campaign aims to “promote responsible outdoor recreation practices that will ensure a healthier and sustainable future for all”.

It is calling on everyone to ensure the countryside is “preserved for future generations”, noting that there has been an increase in littering throughout the country in the last number of weeks since the easing of Covid-19 restrictions.

Deputy Noonan said that while an increasing amount of people “seek the beauty and exhilaration of outdoor recreation, our collective mark on the environment and its natural processes also increases”.

Litter, disturbance to vegetation, water pollution, wildlife, livestock and other people are all indicators of the need to develop a national ethic that protects both natural and cultural heritage.

Those involved in the campaign have identified disposable barbecues as a major problem, “not just as litter, but also as a source of forest fires and wildfires”.

Disposable barbecues are not permitted in any national heritage sites or parks. Wesley Atkinson, regional manager of the NPWS, said that barbecues “not only pose a huge fire threat which divert emergency services, but they endanger wildlife, habitat, destroy large swathes of areas of conservation and place firefighting personnel at great risk”.

Atkinson added that barbecues contain charcoal, which is “usually unsustainably sourced and cannot be recycled or composted”.

The CEO of Leave No Trace Ireland Maura Kiely said that everyone needs to take responsibility for nature, and that littering is a “threat to our fragile eco-systems and a moment of laziness can have long-term effects”.