A farm organisation has claimed that the recent wildfires, most notably in Killarney National Park, “highlight the dangers of rewilding”.

The Irish Natura and Hill Farmer’s Association (INHFA) argued that the fires give “an insight into the potential dangers of a flawed policy”.

Michael McDonnell, who represents the INHFA on the Irish Uplands Forum, stated that “proposals outlined in the EU Biodiversity Strategy targeting a significant increase in the Natura 2000 designations, in addition to the implementation of a new designation type called ‘strictly protected’, has the potential to radically alter our landscape”.

The strictly protected designation, McDonnell claimed, would “eliminate all human activity including agriculture and is effectively rewilding by another name”.

“The simplistic and idealistic agenda pushed by many environmentalists fails spectacularly in recognising its own shortcomings with devastating consequences as illustrated by the wildfires in Killarney National Park,” McDonnell claimed.

He highlighted the detrimental impact the fires had on biodiversity, has well as the amount of carbon emitted from them.

“These fires, which had nothing to do with farmers, are a clear indication of what can happen when the lands are not being managed. This is currently the case in our national parks where a rewilding policy is well-established and may well be the future for at least 10% of the country by 2030.

“It is time for everyone to step back and take a wider view. If we continue to run down the cul-de-sac of rewilding, there will be consequence,” McDonnell warned.

He added: “While wildfires in any area are undesirable, wildfires that could endanger houses and people as what has happened in Portugal, Australia and California should be avoided at all costs.

“Rewilding at least 10% of our country through a strictly protected designation is not a solution. However, supporting our farmers and their families to manage these landscapes and reviewing the Natura 2000 restrictions is,” McDonnell concluded.