The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is currently finalising the draft Threat Response Plan for public consultation on the Hen Harrier population, it has recently been pointed out.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, confirmed this following a parliamentary question from Michael Moynihan, Fianna Fail TD for Cork North-West, on Thursday, December 11.

Continuing, Minister Creed added: “This follows earlier consultation with the stakeholder representative Consultative Committee in May of this year, which generated considerable feedback regarding proposals for limited afforestation within the Special Protection Areas (SPAs).

“The timeline for the release of the draft plan is a matter for the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

“However, it should be noted that any afforestation within a Natura site must satisfy the Habitats Directive, and must also be agreed on by National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Until the Threat Response Plan is completed, my department will not be in a position to approve afforestation projects within the SPAs.

Creed also outlined what actions have already been undertaken to tackle the decline of Hen Harrier populations in Ireland.

“A process has been underway since 2015 to develop a Threat Response Plan. This process, led by Josepha Madigan and the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, focuses on the key land uses of agriculture, forestry and wind farm development.”

Concluding, Creed added: “The plan will address pressures facing populations within those SPAs designated for breeding Hen Harrier, and also issues facing the species within the wider countryside.”