Ireland’s third assessment on the status of listed habitats and species was submitted by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to the European Commission in April 2019.

In Ireland, 85% of habitats were reported as being in ‘unfavourable status’ – the main drivers being agricultural practices which negatively impact over 70% of habitats through ecologically unsuitable grazing, abandonment and pollution.

The ‘unfavourable status’ of many habitats is not surprising as this is the reason they have been listed on the directive.

This is according to the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan, who was responding to questions put to her about biodiversity by Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy during Dáil proceedings last week.

Corcoran Kennedy asked the minister about the progress being made on protecting biodiversity – in view of the publication by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of Ireland’s third assessment on the status of EU-listed habitats and species here – and the initiatives being undertaken in Co. Offaly to protect biodiversity there.

‘Progress on biodiversity’

The minister, meanwhile, pointed to how her department is engaged in a range of targeted activities to address the issues at regional, national and EU level.

The status of species is somewhat better: 57% assessed as ‘favourable’; and 30% assessed as being in ‘unfavourable status’.

She continued: “72% demonstrated stable or improving trends while just 15% demonstrated on-going declining trends.

“Progress is being made with a number of species such as bats, otter and pine marten.

“Grey seal are doing well.”

Working to conserve

Minister Madigan went on to say that she recently visited Boora in Co. Offaly and saw first-hand the conservation work being done by the NPWS.

The Grey Partridge was on the verge of extinction in the late 1990s.

She added: “Following an intense programme of habitat management and nest protection, the population in the project area is now estimated to be around 800 birds today.

“This is a remarkable story of hands-on conservation in action and demonstrates how a strong partnership between the NPWS and the local community can lead to the reversal of loss and to species recovery.

“As part of the ongoing implementation of the National Biodiversity Action Plan 2017-2021, in 2018, I launched a grant scheme to assist local authorities with biodiversity projects in their areas that support actions in the plan.

“A grant of €16,000 was made to Offaly County Council to support a range of local authority-led biodiversity projects.”