The Living Bog Project listed as finalist in Natura 2000 Awards

An Irish raised bog restoration project has been nominated for one of Europe’s top environmental awards.

The Living Bog project, which commenced in 2016 and finishes this December, is among 27 finalists for the European Commission’s Natura 2000 Awards.

News about the nomination has been welcomed by Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan.

The awards recognise excellence in the management of Natura 2000 sites. The Living Bog is nominated in the ‘Community’ category, with the bog project’s work in the local community and its involvement of community groups and individuals – including turf cutters – in project actions recognised by the EU’s environmental bodies.

Congratulating the project team on the nomination, Minister Madigan said: “I am delighted that the work of the Living Bog with local communities has been recognised with its nomination for a Natura 2000 Award.

This project aims to restore raised bog across 12 raised bog Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) across seven counties.

A high-level jury will decide on five winners in Natura 2000, but from the finalists the public will also choose its winner: The Citizens’ Award.

Up to September 15, the general public will be voting for its favourite Natura 2000 Award finalist, and the application that receives the most votes will win the coveted European Citizens’ Award. Since the Natura 2000 awards started in 2014, there have been no Irish winners in any category.

Voting links are live from 1:30pm today, Tuesday, June 2, which coincides with World Peatlands Day.

The project is funded by the EU LIFE 2014-2020 Nature and Biodiversity Fund, with the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht co-ordinating beneficiary.

The project is undertaken by a five-person project team located in the heart of the Irish midlands ‘peat district’ in Mullingar with many local contractors carrying out works throughout seven counties.

The bogs involved in The Living Bog project include: Ardagullion Bog SAC, Co. Longford; Carrowbehy Bog SAC, Gorthaganny, Co. Roscommon; Derrinea Bog SAC, Co. Roscommon; Clara Bog SAC, Moyclare Bog SAC, Mongan Bog SAC, Raheenmore Bog SAC, Sharavogue Bog SAC, and Ferbane Bog SAC, all Co. Offaly; Garriskil Bog SAC, Co. Westmeath; Killyconny Bog SAC, Mullagh Co. Cavan / Co. Meath; and Carrownagappul Bog SAC, Mountbellew, Co. Galway.

The aim of the project is to improve the conservation status of the priority habitat Active Raised Bog (EU Habitat Code 7110).

This is being achieved by drain blocking with peat and plastic dams, barrier dam construction and other restoration and improvement measures.

In total, almost 200km of drains have been blocked by the project with about 10,000 dams installed.

It is the project’s work in communities that has been recognised by the EU. An active programme of community events, from walks and talks to children’s nature camps, saw the Living Bog project establish a foothold in local communities. Community volunteers gave up many hours of their time to assist at project events and also to help on many project actions.

This was further supported by an intensive social media campaign and web promotional work. A major schools outreach project was also launched. Over 100 schools were involved and children were encouraged to learn more about peatlands and bogs and espouse the benefits of restoration at home and socially.

Working with local community groups, the project is currently delivering or set to deliver amenity and educational facilities, including boardwalks, walking routes and educational parks, at five locations – pending planning permission decisions for a number of sites.

It is anticipated that these developments will generate local health, social and economic benefits, according to the department.