Wednesday, 29 November 2006
Dáil Eireann Debate
212. Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of contracts awaiting approval by the forestry division to proceed with planting; and the number of these delays due to lack of direction by the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government with regard to Hen Harrier habitats. [40781/06]
There are currently 925 applications for afforestation grant aid being processed by the Forest Service of my Department. Of these, 109 applications — including the two specifically referred to by the Deputy — are in respect of areas proposed as Special Protection Areas for the Hen Harrier.
The Hen Harrier is a protected species and the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government has identified a number of areas around the country which are important for its survival. The European Commission have expressed the gravest concern at any further planting within these areas until it is possible to fully access the impact of forestry on the species. In order to do that, it is necessary to work out what type of management regime needs to be put in place to accommodate both forestry and the hen-harrier in the areas being proposed as Special Protection Areas. To this end, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has established a working group, on which the forestry and farming interests are represented, as well as my Department, to help with the development of such a management regime. The applications will be looked at again when an appropriate regime for the hen harrier has been agreed.
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