Bird of prey harries massive EUR74m wind farm out of the sky, Independent, Tuesday, June 2nd, 2004
The presence of the rare hen harrier, which is found only in parts of Kerry, Cork and Limerick, has stopped the construction in Co Cork of a giant wind farm, like the one above. The landmark ruling deemed that the construction would destroy the harrier's habitat and will be seen by conservation groups as having wider implications for other planned windfarms.
A LANDMARK ruling protecting a rare bird of prey has stopped construction of a giant EUR74m wind farm and could scupper plans for hundreds of similar developments nationwide. Bord Pleanala, in the first ruling of its kind, shot down a massive wind farm with 29 turbines planned for Co Cork because it could interfere with the habitat of the protected hen harrier. The landmark planning decision on the project - which had been due to dominate the skyline and span seven townlands at Knockacummer, Co Cork - is set to lead to a flood of similar objections anywhere wind farms are planned in the species' habitat.
The presence of the bird was the sole reason for refusal by the planning authority, signalling a tough new approach to wind farm developments impacting upon protected bird species. The hen harrier, an internationally protected species, has fewer than 150 pairs left in Kerry, Cork and Limerick. Killing or disturbance of the birds or their nests at any time is forbidden.
The South Western Services Group, representing five co-ops in West Cork, had got permission from Cork Co Council to build a wind farm of 29 turbines soaring 120m into the skyline. The turbines are 80m high, but with a blade diameter of 80m they reach to 120m in height. Bord Pleanala upheld an appeal by the Bruach Na Carraige Cultural and Heritage Centre against the decision because of the presence of the hen harrier. In its ruling, the board said the proposed development was located on a site identified as a nesting and foraging habitat of the hen harrier, a species listed for protection in the EU Birds Directive. The site was also being considered by the Government for designation as a Special Area of Conservation for the birds, the board said.
The Government is proposing to designate nine special conservation sites to protect the birds. Bord Pleanala said it was not satisfied that the development would not have "significant and adverse impacts on the hen harrier". The giant turbines would disturb and displace the birds and wipe out their habitats. The board said it took the decision to refuse permission after considering the size and scale of the proposed wind farm in an area of national importance for the conservation of the hen harrier. It also took account of the fact that a number of wind farms were already operating in the area. One of these was given permission on the basis that it was small and its operators would monitor the effect on the hen harrier. "The proposed development would be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area," said Bord Pleanala.
A spokesperson for the SWS group said yesterday they were "incredibly disappointed" at the ruling and insisted the council had designated the area as suitable for wind farm development. There has been widespread opposition from farmers to the proposed protected designations, as they fear they will deprive them of income from windfarms and forestry in upland areas. But bird lovers and environmental groups are actively campaigning against any developments that negatively impact on the habitats of protected bird species. A dead hen harrier was recently posted to the Kerryman newspaper at the height of controversy over the planned designations. The male bird, pale grey with distinctive black wing tips, is smaller than the female. This allows him to specialise in feeding on small birds. The dark brown female tackles larger prey, mainly rabbits. Their habitat is heather moorland, blanket bogs, upland farmland and young plantations.
Visiting anglers are warned thay could devastate Lough Corrib, By Frank Farragher, The Connacht Tribune, Friday, April 30th, 2004
The Zebra Mussel - a native of the Black and Caspian Seas - which has already colonised the Erne and Shannon waterways is highly destructive to various fish species including the world famous wild brown trout of Lough Corrib.
Fears are growing this week - in the days before the Mayfly invasion of anglers - that some visiting anglers and boatmen who randomly descend on the Corrib may be using vessels or other equipment which they had previously used on the Shannon or the Erne waterways. In total about 50 Irish lakes have been colonised by the mollusc.
This week both the Western Regional Fisheries Board and Galway County Council have issued warnings over the ecological disaster which the spread of the Zebra Mussel would wreak on the 'Great Western Lakes' - Lough Corrib, Mask, Conn and carra - all so far free from the invader.
The inedible Zebra Nussels attach themselves 'by the million' to soild surfaces such as stone, wood or concrete - the limestone bed of Lough Corrib would provide an ideal habitat for this shellfish.
In recent weeks concerns have been expressed by local angling interests, boat operators and landowners over what they describe as the 'random forays' onto the lake from some visitors who just take their boat on the lake from the most convenient place to them.
"The Zebra Mussel is my single biggest fear for the future of these great lakes over the coming years. These lakes are now recognised as being the best in the country, but that more and more people are coming to fish them every year," said Greg Forde, Chief Executive of the Western Regional Fisheries Board.
He added that there was no law or byelaw to control people coming onto the lake and there was the possibility that people unwittingly would take a boat or engine they had used on the Shannon system and bring it onto one of the western lakes.
"Any boat or engine which has been used on the Erne or Shannon waterways in the previous month should not be brought onto our western lakes. We want people to get this message loud and clear," said Greg Forde.
He said that such visiting anglers had the option of hiring a boat locally and he added that there were also concerns about people just randomly accessing the lakes via land owned by local people.
Anglers should use the designated slipways and if possible join the local angling club where for a small contribution they could access the lake propoerly as well as being well informed.
He warned that the spread of the Zebra Mussel to the western lakes would be devastating as this species is a prolific coloniser. Mr. Forde said that the species removed practically all of the plankton from the water which would spell the end of a particular kind of brown trout known as 'sonaghan'.
According to a statement issued by Galway County Council they warn that the Zebra Mussel is on of the most damaging non-native species ever to be introduced into Ireland's rivers and lakes.
"Currently, approximately fifty lakes are infested, including the lakes of the Shannon system. The Western Lakes have escaped infestation to date but they are under threat. The Zebra Mussel is highly destructive to the ecosystem and to the fish life of any river or lake that it infests," the Council state.
The Zebra Mussel can tolerate a wide range of conditions and is extremely adaptable. Zebra Mussels remove microscopic organisms and plankton from the water. This results in a reduction in the amount of food sources availablt to native fish and freshwater invertebrates.
"The key to preventing the spread of the Zebra Mussel lies in preventing boats being transported from infected waters to the Great Western Lakes. Zebra Mussels are spread by attaching to boats, engines, nets, weeds and diving equipment.
"Galway County Council recommend that visiting anglers who wish to fish in the Corrib, Mask, Carra and Conn should leave their boats at home and rent locally," the Council state.
Zebra Mussels, were first documented in Ireland in 1997 in Lough Derg and other parts of the lower Shannon estuaries. Scientifically they are categorised as 'freshwater bivalves' which attach to hard substrates via a thread network.
EU chides Ireland over wild birds, By Tim King in Brussels, Irish Times, Friday, January 30th, 2004
Ireland ranks second from bottom in the European Union at protecting the habitats of wild birds, the European Commission announced yesterday. The Corncrake, the Chough and the Hen Harrier are among the species the Commission judges to be "poorly protected".
The Commission announced yesterday that it was taking Ireland to the European Court of Justice for its continuing failure to protect the ahbitats of wils birds. According to the wild birds directive, The EU's oldest piece of nature conservation law and dating to 1979, Ireland should have designated special protection areas for migratory birds and vulnerable species.
Only France has a smaller network of SPAs, measured as a proportion of its territory, a Commission spokeswoman said. Irealnd has designated 3 per cent of its territory, compared to an EU average of 8 per cent.
The Environment Commissioner, Ms. Margot Wallstrom said: "Member States have committed themselves to halting the loss of biodiversity in the EU by 2010. If this objective is to be achieved, they must reinforce their national legislation and upgrade their nature conservation practices."
Around 140 sites in Irealnd have been identified by Birdlife International and its member organisation BirdWatch Ireland as being of importance to the conservation of Europe's wild birds. Of these, the Commission complains that the Government has so far failed to designate one third of them as SPAs and that some of the other sites have been only partially protected.
"A lot of sites have to be increased in size in order to comply with the directive," a Commission official said.
The Commission wants to see areas of the Shannon Callows near Athlone designated because they are a stronghold of the Corncrake. The Dingle and Beara peninsulas are important for Chough. Areas to protect Hen Harrier should, the Commission believes, be designated in parts of Clare, north Cork and Limerick.
Similarly there are parts of Cork Harbour and Dublin Bay where the Commission believes designation should be extended so as to better protect migrating geese and ducks.
A Government spokeswoman said the number of SPAs would soon be increased. She said: "There are more than 20 statutory instruments which are due to be finalised shortly. We are making progress."BIRDWATCH IRELAND PRESS STATEMENT 15th May 2003
RE: DEAD HEN HARRIER SENT TO KERRY NEWSPAPER
Birdwatch Ireland condemns the apparent illegal killing of a Hen Harrier in Co. Kerry and the sickening act of sending the body parts through the post to a newspaper, in a clear attempt to intimidate those who are working to preserve our wildlife heritage. We request that a Garda investigation take place and if the bird was indeed shot, prosecution should follow.
The Hen Harrier is an internationally protected species with fewer than 150 pairs left in Ireland, and the law forbids the killing or disturbance of the birds or their nest at any time and under any circumstances. This action was taken during the breeding season, when the birds and their young are at their most vulnerable.
This action has taken place against a background of continuing conflict between the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government over the designation of certain areas of our countryside as Special Protection Areas (SPAs) under the EU Birds Directive. Birdwatch Ireland believe that the objectives of sustainably developing our uplands and the protection of our environment need not be in conflict and we advocate reasoned analysis of all options in order to achieve an outcome that benefits all parties.
We call on the IFA to promptly and publicly condemn this maverick action.
Birds a barometer to nature (Connacht Tribune, 28th March 2003)
12th November 2002: Make your time COUNT for birds this Winter!
17th August 2002: Plaque unveiling and presentation to the O'Malley family
February 2002: Galway goose site saved from development
© BirdWatch Galway 2004