12 January 2006

Ireland's Wildlife: New farming methods put birds in serious decline

Belfast Telegraph

By David McKittrick
12 January 2006

The Republic of Ireland's Heritage Council has warned that many of the country's birds are under threat because of trends in agriculture. The corncrake, lapwing, barn owl, cuckoo and chough are all on the danger list, according to the official body that monitors the health of Ireland's wildlife.

In all, 29 species of birds and 120 flowering plants are in serious decline because of the introduction of more intensive farming methods that damage their habitat. Other wildlife, such as the marsh fritillary butterfly, is also under threat.

Michael Starrett, the council's chief executive, said: "Ireland lags far behind most European countries in the approach it takes towards managing our countryside and we will need to take serious steps to safeguard and protect it. There is a new opportunity for farmers and landowners to receive recognition for the role they play in managing and protecting our heritage, environment and landscape. They perform a public service that benefits everyone in Ireland."

The council advocated payments to farmers who were most sensitive to heritage management, saying that should give additional financial incentives to others. Over the past decade, agriculture and the environmental lobby have found themselves at odds as measures to protect wildlife have brought complaints from farmers that their livelihood is affected.

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