Monday, 18 July 2016

Controlled Burning Partership Established in Wicklow

Controlled Burning Partnership Established in Wicklow. 

There is a real threat that the overgrown heather which covers large areas of Wicklow Mountains, due in part to the decline in hill farming, could accidentally catch fire in the dryer summer months.  This could cause significant destruction to habitats, soil and have a detrimental effect on wildlife, birds, forestry and our dwellings.  With the aim to prevent such disaster and to create a plan for the uplands, a workshop on Controlled Burning took place on 12th February  last in Roundwood, Co Wicklow. This workshop was arranged following the announcement of proposed pilot measures which would allow landowners to carry out controlled burning of upland vegetation in March under certain conditions.

Over 150 people from across Ireland 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, Teagasc, spoke about controlled burning from an agricultural perspective: “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 wildfires 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.

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 emphasized that the project has resulted in the presence of an array of wild birds on Boleybrack Mountain.

Ciaran Nugent from the Forest Service shared his experience of prescribed burning in County Kerry.  The term ‘prescribed burning’ describes planned use of fire as a land management tool.  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.

The outdoor session involved an in depth discussion of the merits and practicalities of heather burning. This was followed by a practical demonstration of a controlled burn. Conservationists, mountaineers, wildlife rangers, scientists, firefighters, farmers, agricultural professionals and journalists discussed the safe and appropriate use of fire in the uplands.  Pat Dunne (Wicklow Uplands Council and IFA) stressed to landowners present that the onus is on them to carry out controlled burning responsibly.  He highlighted that the proposed introduction of new pilot measures to allow burning into March under certain condition has not yet been introduced and the measures will only proceed if controlled burning is carried out responsibly from now on. 

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 a 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. 

Brian Dunne, Co-ordinator, Wicklow Uplands Council

Tourism Ambassadors Initiative in Wicklow

Tourism Ambassadors Initiative in Wicklow

The need for this project was identified at the Joint Policing Committee Meetings in Wicklow County Council in co-operation with Gardaí, NPWS, Wicklow Tourism, Community organisation’s, Wicklow County Council, Wicklow Uplands Council, Mountaineering Ireland and Rural Recreation Scheme.   

The County Wicklow Partnership was ideally placed to roll out the Tourism Ambassadors initiative through the Tús Programme and it is in operation since July 2014.  The project employs over 21 participants who work part time as Tourism Ambassadors in various car parks at tourist hot spots throughout the County, including Sugarloaf/Greystones, Enniskerry/Sally Gap/Roundwood, Glendalough, Glenmalure, Tinahely, Aughrim, Wicklow/Brittas Bay and Blessington.

The role of the Tourism Ambassadors is to offer support and guidance to tourists and locals and to act as security or deterrent but in the form of a tourist information officer.  They also provide visitors with maps and offer advice on walking routes, proper clothing required and vehicle security.  They can notify the relevant authorities of suspicious activities in the area but they will not intervene themselves. 

Tourism Ambassadors have accredited security training, manual handling and occupational first aid training and they completed site specific training in tourism.  They are easy to recognise as they wear a uniform. 

This project is an excellent example of multi-agency approach to address a countywide issue and is very welcome among recreational users with a very positive impact on tourism in County Wicklow.

10 years of PURE project

10 Years of PURE Project


 The PURE project, a unique environmental partnership in Ireland which incorporates statutory and non-statutory organisations, has had an extremely busy start this year.  In January alone it has removed over 90 tons of illegal dumping.  Commenting on recent dumping incidents, Ian Davis, the manager of PURE stated,

“We have received a huge number of reports of illegal dumping and this looks like it will be one of the busiest years for the project since we started 10 years ago.  One incident alone filled the entire PURE truck and consisted of mattresses, beds, floor boards, couches, and a considerable amount of domestic waste, with close to 4 tonnes of household rubbish dumped at the site. We are appealing to householders not to hand over their waste to unauthorised waste collectors and to check that they have a legitimate waste collection permit, because if they don’t have one, it will be dumped in the mountains and the householder is also responsible”.

The PURE Truck collected over 1000 sites in 2015 and removed over 235 tonnes of illegal dumping.  All dumping incidents are recorded on a GPS/GIS database system and from this PURE has built up a baseline data on dumping patterns and locations.  If you were to put all the rubbish that PURE has collected into standard household rubbish bags you would fill over 370,000 bags and they would stretch the same distance as a journey from Glendalough to Dingle in County Kerry. 

PURE believe that the fast removal of illegal dumping/fly-tipping from the landscape reduces further dumping at a site.  Some people think that it is acceptable to dump – dumping attracts dumping.  Prior to the removal of dumping all incidents are investigated by the relevant local authority’s Environmental Enforcement Officers. In 2015 Wicklow County Council had a number of successful prosecutions in the courts.  In some cases, offenders were fined over €3,000 and they were also made pay for the legal fees (over €2,000). 

The PURE Mile community initiative proves to be very successful.  Through the PURE Mile competition communities keep a mile stretch of road (approx. 1.6 km) rubbish free.  The competition has developed into a very important part of conserving our regional and national environmental heritage.  For more info visit 

The project is due to finish at the end of this year but PURE are optimistic that they will receive further funding from The Department of Environment Community and Local Government to continue the fight against illegal dumping in the Wicklow/Dublin Uplands. 

Further information on PURE can be found on  Please continue reporting illegal dumping in the Dublin/Wicklow Uplands on 1850 365 121.