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Wildlife group's complaint over destruction of woodland 'disingenuous' claims Department

The IWT says the public has been left with a smaller and biologically poorer National Park.

Image: IWT

THE DEPARTMENT OF Heritage has accused the Irish Wildlife Trust of being “disingenuous” in its complaint to the Minister over the destruction of a broad-leaved woodland in Connemara National Park. 

The IWT has made a formal complaint to Heritage Minister, Josepha Madigan, over the recent destruction of a hectare of woodland, claiming that “the public is now left with a smaller and biologically poorer National Park” as no compensatory land was sought from Galway County Council. 

“The removal of the woodland, which was evaluated by independent ecologists as of ‘high biodiversity value in a local context’, was facilitated by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) in a land transfer to Galway County Council with no public consultation process. “ 

However, a spokesperson for the Department said the claims made by the IWT are  “inaccurate, misleading hyperbole and disingenuous” and that no compensation was sought from Galway County Council due to the public and road safety nature of the project.

Public safety

Following the transfer of the piece of land in Connemara National Park between the NPWS and Galway County Council, the hectare of land was levelled to facilitate the straightening of a road. The road in question was described as a treacherous point of the N59 and contains the entrance to Connemara National Park.

“The project will greatly enhance road and public safety at the site and thus will be a considerable benefit to the local community, to NPWS staff and to visitors of the National Park. The alternative to this transaction is simply unthinkable and the safety of our staff, visitors to our park in Connemara and the general public and local community remains paramount,” said the Department.

We are extremely disappointed in the comments attributed to IWT.

“Public good was best served by permitting the transfer of this small portion of land from the Department to facilitate works along the N59 immediately west of Letterfrack Village,” a Department spokesperson said. 

An ecological impact report was prepared for the proposed realignment and the conclusion of the report was that “the proposed road realignment, by itself or in combination with other plans and projects, in light of best scientific knowledge in the field, will not, in view of the sites’ conservation objectives, have significant effects on any European Site”. 

The Department added that “qualified and expert” regional management staff reviewed the report and endorsed its findings.

According to the Department, Padraic Fogarty, IWT’s campaigns officer was “extensively” briefed on the road and public safety measure by NPWS officials and the comments attributed to IWT do not remotely reflect the factual situation.

The road safety measure here involved the transfer of a very small parcel of land (without adverse ecological impact) to ensure public road safety at a treacherous point of the N59 and improves access to the National Park.

Fogarty has disputed this claim, stating that he rang the NPWS himself to find out why it was happening. 

“I stand over everything I said. To say I was extensively briefed? I rang them.

“It’s really shocking to think that the NPWS, who are supposed to be the guardians of our natural heritage, can so easily sacrifice chunks of one of our country’s natural treasures. We’re disappointed, but not particularly surprised, that the Fine Gael government has signed off on this, given their poor regard for the environment,” Fogarty said. 

The Department also disregarded this claim made by the IWT, stating that the Department manages a National Park and Nature Reserve property portfolio of some 87,000 hectares, across more than 80 sites nationwide, and these transactions underpin its commitment to preserving Ireland’s natural heritage. 

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Adam Daly

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