Ireland is home to 28 species of land mammal, over 400 species of birds, more than 4,000 plant species and over 12,000 species of insect. If we want all of this to survive, we must ensure that there are enough suitable areas for all these species to flourish.
Recent economic success in Ireland has placed strains never seen before on our environment. At the same time, farmers who own the land where much of our wildlife resides are themselves facing an uncertain and difficult future. As agriculture changes, conditions for much of our wildlife will also change. While technological advances provide new environmental opportunities, for example, windfarms provide great possibilities for green energy but these also cost in disturbance in hitherto isolated and untouched mountain areas.
Conserving species in their natural habitats requires a strategic approach to succeed. One of these is to ensure the adequate conservation of habitats where many of our plants and animals live. Rare and fragile species such as the corncrake and the blue cornflower were found all over the country 50 years ago but now have almost disappeared, the demise of these species is linked to change in agricultural practices. To succeed, in conserving our native species we need the support of landowners and people who use or visit the land.
Ireland aims to conserve habitats and species, through designation of conservation areas. This is required of us under European law and our own national laws. The National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) is responsible for the designation of conservation sites in Ireland. The NPWS works with farmers, other landowners and users and national and local authorities, trying to achieve the best balance between farming and land-use on the one hand, and requirements for conserving nature in these selected areas, on the other.