Thursday, 8 June 2017

Wicklow Uplands Council supports the Heritage Bill

In 2000 an amendment to the Wildlife Act shortened the permissive burning season by 6 weeks, from the 15th April to end of February each year. This amendment was carried out without any prior consultation with upland stakeholders.
Since the alteration to the Wildlife Act there has been a decline in farming activity in upland areas and a subsequent decline in the quality of upland habitats. This is largely due to vast areas of overgrown monocultures of heather, bracken & gorse. For the past number of years Wicklow Uplands Council has been highlighting that this overgrown vegetation poses a serious threat to upland habitats and public safety and has lobbied extensively for the extension of the current permissive burning season.
Overgrown vegetation is a major concern as it offers poor conditions for grazing and biodiversity and provides excess fuel for fires. The recent wildfires along the West have been a clear demonstration of this problem; vast areas of excess vegetation are allowing wildfires to spread uninterrupted with devastating effect.
Wicklow Uplands Council is supporting the Heritage Bill which would allow the controlled burning of vegetation in March when weather is not conducive in the preceding months. Controlled rotational burning is an important land management tool when used correctly. The use of burning to create a mosaic of vegetation structure creates optimal conditions for biodiversity and grazing and importantly creates a break in vegetation, preventing the spread of wildfire in dry conditions.
The current season is very restrictive as weather conditions are often not favourable early in the year. Importantly this legislation also applies to the mechanical removal of vegetation.
Irish legislation is out of line with the UK season (including NI) which permits the use of controlled burning up to April 15th. Best practice guidelines have been published in England, Scotland and Wales after ongoing consultation with upland stakeholders.
Burning is not the answer to all the problems in the uplands but when coupled with mechanical removal methods and an appropriate grazing regime the habitats are maintained in optimal condition.
While fires can easily be started accidentally in dry conditions, Wicklow Uplands Council is urging landowners not to start fires outside of the legal season.

Author: Brian Dunne, Co-ordinator, Wicklow Uplands Council

Monday, 13 February 2017

Wicklow Uplands Council Advocates Safety and Responsibility of Dog Ownership



19/1/2017
A recent attack on sheep at the Featherbeds resulted in the death of two ewes. Tracks in the snow indicated that a dog had chased the sheep a short distance before catching and inflicting horrific injuries. Footprints close by indicated that a person was also in the area at the time who presumably took the dog from the scene. It is not clear who this person was, but they did not report the incident. Wicklow Uplands Council highlighted the incident on their social media which raised a lot of attention and debate.   Wicklow Uplands Council would like to take this opportunity to clarify the current regulations regarding the control of dogs, and specifically in relation to livestock.
Under the Control of Dogs Act 1986 and amended by the Control of Dogs (Amendment) Act 1992 all local authorities in Ireland are responsible for the control of dogs. Dog owners are liable for injury or damage caused their dogs to people or livestock and local authorities can seize dogs, impose on-the-spot fines and take court proceedings against owners.  Dogs should be licensed, micro-chipped and wear an ID tag. 
Dogs and livestock don’t mix – even the smallest tail wagging pet can have a change in personality when confronted with livestock.  Sheep and lambs are very easily stressed when confronted by a dog – even when the dog is on a lead.   Sheep are very easily frightened and pregnant ewes have been known to abort their lambs following an encounter with a dog.  Cattle too, especially cows with calves, can consider the dog a threat to their offspring and act aggressively towards the dog and the owner.  Horses and their riders are also vulnerable when dogs are allowed to roam unsupervised.
The behaviour of a boisterous uncontrolled dog can have an adverse effect on other dogs and their owners and can also leave a lasting effect on impressionable young children. 
Other wildlife living in the Uplands – for example ground nesting birds in open land can be scared from the nest by even the friendliest of dogs just doing a bit of sniffing around. This is especially the case in spring and summer so it is important to keep your dog on a lead. If parent birds leave the nest, the eggs become cold and the chicks may die.

Remember it is important to clear up your dog’s mess in the countryside as this can cause infections in people or wildlife and can cause serious illness and death in livestock. For example, worms from dogs’ mess can cause ‘gid’ which is a fatal disease that attacks the brains of sheep.

There is, in general a good relationship between recreational users and farmers in the Uplands.  Every weekend significant numbers of recreational users are welcomed to enjoy the Wicklow uplands. Most visitors and recreational users are responsible people who love and respect the scenery, the animals and the people who live there.
Signs are abundant in the Uplands, indicating where livestock are grazing. Please respect them and do not bring your dog onto a farm. 
Wicklow Uplands Council advises anyone who witnesses incidences of sheep worrying to report to An GardaĆ­.  Recreational users can play a role in bringing incidents of dog worrying and injured animals to the attention of the landowner, who cannot supervise their livestock 24/7.
The education of dog owners remains a key priority in preventing similar incidents. The Leave No Trace Ireland guide and the Wicklow Cheviot Sheep Owners’ booklet are useful resources for dog owners and can be downloaded from our website www.wicklowuplands.ie
Again, if you encounter incidents of livestock worrying, please report immediately to the local Garda Station or Wicklow County Council
Ph: 0404 20236 or Email:
env@wicklowcoco.ie. 
Stray dogs should be reported to ISPCA Dog Warden Service Ph: 0404 44873.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Wicklow Tourism










Tourism in Wicklow employs well over 10,000 local people, from summer jobs to career professionals. Tourism businesses are generally small and locally owned and they contribute greatly to the economy working with local suppliers for goods and services.

Overall, 2016 has been a good tourism year in Wicklow, but further progress is needed to fulfil the tourism potential and attract greater numbers of visitors next year.  The challenges facing us include:
  • The high cost of doing business in Ireland.
  • The risks associated with Brexit.
  • The low levels of marketing funds available to businesses.

In 2016, Wicklow Tourism successfully promoted a variety of activities using the visitwicklow.ie website and other social media. Over 60K tourism maps were distributed in Wicklow, Ireland and abroad. A delegation from Wicklow Tourism attended various trade shows and fairs to develop and foster strong connections with overseas partners in places like Canada and China while showcasing Wicklow as a holiday destination on the doorstep of the vibrant city of Dublin.  Offering a huge variety for everyone, from stunning mountain scenery and treks to vast seascapes and the experience of quiet rural life offering great places to eat and stay.
The extensive PR campaign developed around the tagline #WakeUpInWicklow has been a tremendous success.

Wicklow County Tourism’s Executive Board.

From left to right, Martyna O’Toole, Neasa Clissman, Cllr. Gerry Walsh, Pat Mellon Chairman, Cllr. Miriam Murphy, Gerard O’Brien, Sean Byrne, Eugene Finnegan.  Missing: Pat O’Suilleabhan, Mai Quaid
 

 


Under the guidance of the board, Wicklow County Tourism is committed to undergo a review of its structure and operations, with the objective to maximise allocated and generated resources.  This organisation will continue to work hard in 2017 to expand its reach both in Ireland and abroad, while offering support for the development of local tourism projects.