The most important legislation underpinning biodiversity and nature conservation in Ireland is the:

  • Wildlife Acts 1976 to 2018 and
  • European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011-2015

Wildlife Acts 1976 to 2018

The Wildlife Acts 1976 to 2018 is a collective citation for the following:

The Wildlife Act 1976 has also been amended by:

The Wildlife Act, 1976 provided a good legislative base for nature conservation. The species protection provisions, including those regulating hunting, are quite comprehensive, to the extent, for example, that they largely foresaw similar aspects of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives. However, the habitat/site protection measures in the 1976 Act were relatively weak, and were almost completely limited to measures which could be introduced in agreement with landowners. There was very limited power to ensure protection, even in the case of outstanding habitats or sites, where agreement of landowners was not forthcoming.

Nature conservation legislation was substantially enlarged and improved by the Wildlife (Amendment) Act, 2000 and the Birds and Natural Habitats Regulations.

Read more about the Wildlife Acts on this website:

Wildlife Act, 1976

Wildlife (Amendment) Act, 2000

Birds and Natural Habitats Regulations

The European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats Regulations 2011 (S. I. No. 477 of 2011) transpose the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive.  The 2011 Regulations were amended by:

NPWS has issued the following circulars as guidance on implementation of the Regulations:

Previously, the Birds and Habitats Directives had been transposed into Irish law through inter alia the Wildlife Act 1976 and the European Communities (Natural Habitats) Regulations, 1997. However, two judgments of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) – notably cases C-418/04 and C-183/05 - found that Ireland had not adequately transposed the two Directives.  Therefore, the 2011 Regulations consolidate the European Communities (Natural Habitats) Regulations 1997 to 2005 and the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats)(Control of Recreational Activities) Regulations 2010, as well as addressing transposition failures identified in CJEU judgments.

Last updated: 27 June 2019