|Responsible Dog Owners by Leave No Trace Ireland|
Thursday, 31 March 2016
Tuesday, 1 March 2016
Controlled Burning Partnership Established in Wicklow.
Over 150 people attended this important event organised by Wicklow Uplands Council and supported by a large number of agencies including Coillte, Irish Farmers Association, Irish Uplands Forum, The Fire Service, The Forest Service, Mountaineering Ireland, The National Parks and Wildlife Service, Teagasc and Wicklow Cheviot Sheep Owners Association. The workshop began indoors and was followed by a practical demonstration of controlled burning at Powerscourt Paddock on Djouce Mountain.
The indoor session covered presentations from various speakers. Declan Byrne of Teagasc spoke about controlled burning from an agricultural perspective. He emphasized hill sheep farmers' priorities in the uplands which include: income (subsidies, GLAS / AEOS), feeding for sheep, preservation of the hills, biodiversity, habitats, protected species, and fire prevention. He said: "The cheapest, most sustainable and environmentally friendly way to manage hills is through farming". In his view long term management plans (at least 10 years long) for hills and commonages would work best for vegetation control. They should include grazing, controlled burning and cutting / swiping.
Enda Mullen, District Conservation Officer with NPWS, spoke about negative environmental impacts of uncontrolled fires in Wicklow. These include: destruction of rare birds nesting sites; deaths of old famine trees, insects, bird chicks; loss of food for wildlife; smoldering of soil which changes soil function, nutrients and ability to hold water; spread of unwanted plants such as bracken; soil erosion and water pollution. She also talked about the social and human impacts of uncontrolled burning such as damage to property; cost of firefighting, safety, fire fighter fatigue and smoke inhalation. Enda made a plea: “I hope for a new start, that from now on the approach for uplands and burning will be different and fire will be used only as a management tool, no more uncontrolled burning”.
The Boleybrack Red Grouse Management Project in North Leitrim was the first place in the country where controlled burning took place in a NATURA 2000 Site (Special Area of Conservation) a few years ago. John Carslake the game keeper in the project shared his experience with controlled burning for biodiversity. He asked: “What do we want from a controlled burn? Actively farmed commonage which is rich in biodiversity, grouse and wildlife species”. John emphasized that the project has resulted in the presence of an array of wild birds on Boleybrack Mountain.
Ciaran Nugent, from the Forest Service,
explained fire theory and safety and shared his experience of controlled
burning in County Kerry. Ciaran
highlighted that the Forest Service use the term prescribed burning to describe the
planned and deliberate use of fire as a land management tool. He stressed the importance of being prepared;
having a burning plan in place; notifying the relevant stakeholders; having
proper safety & burning equipment and having able-bodied people available
on the day to assist in the burn. The Forest
Service and the Dept. of Agriculture, Food and the Marine have published the
‘Prescribed Burning Code of Practice – Ireland’ which outlines all the key
steps and equipment needed to carry out a controlled burn.
Brian Dunne, the Co-ordinator of Wicklow Uplands Council, is hopeful that the success of this workshop will discourage uncontrolled burning this year. He said: “This workshop marks the beginning of a new era with all interested parties working in partnership towards the use of controlled burning as a land management tool and combating wildfire problems, not only in Wicklow but on a national level.” The Wicklow Uplands Council’s ‘Study to Identify Best Management of Upland Habitats in County Wicklow’ identified the need for collaboration between stakeholders for best practice in controlled burning and identified the need for the establishment of small controlled burning groups who would play a vital role in assisting landowners carry out controlled burning. It is also expected that there will soon be a call for applications for a new Locally Led Agri-Environment Scheme for upland areas. Such scheme will be based on the Burren Farming for Conservation Model whereby farmers would be rewarded for maintaining healthy upland habitats and controlled burning will have an integral role to play in achieving this goal.