The most important pieces of legislation underpinning biodiversity and nature conservation in Ireland are:

  • The Wildlife Act 1976
  • The Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000
  • The European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011

A general overview of these pieces of legislation is below. For more information about each of these, please see the pages on the Wildlife Act 1976Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000 and the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011.

For a list of currently available consolidations of the Wildlife Act, Birds and Natural Habitats Regulations and other related legislation, please see the page on Consolidated Legislation.

Wildlife Acts

The Wildlife Acts 1976 to 2023 comprises the following:

In most cases, Acts following the 1976 Act have simply amended the 1976 Act. However, the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000 also made substantive law in its own right. The 2000 Act therefore contains law that you will not find in the consolidated Wildlife Act 1976. The 2000 Act was amended by the 2023 Act listed above as well as by other S.I.s. 

There are also a number of Statutory Instruments made under the Wildlife Act 1976 and the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000, respectively. Because these Statutory Instruments did not amend the 1976 Act or the 2000 Act, the law they contain will not be found in the consolidated Wildlife Act 1976 or the consolidated Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000. For example, the Wildlife Act 1976 (Protection of Wild Animals) Regulations 2022 (S.I. No. 485 of 2022) was made under section 23(2) of the Wildlife Act 1976 to confer ‘protected wild animal’ status on the Basking Shark. The Natural Heritage Area (Ederglen Bog NHA 002446) Order 2007 (S.I. No. 520 of 2007) was made under section 18 of the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000 to designate Ederglen Bog as a Natural Heritage Area.

Click on the links below to see the full list of Statutory Instruments made under the two Acts, listed by section of the Act.

Statutory Instruments made under the Wildlife Act 1976

Statutory Instruments made under the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000


Birds and Natural Habitats Regulations

The European Communities (Birds and Habitats) Regulations 2011 (S.I. No. 477 of 2011) is an Irish law that implements two key European directives:

The Birds Directive (2009/147/EC)

The Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC)

Overall, the European Communities (Birds and Habitats) Regulations 2011 play a vital role in implementing EU directives on biodiversity conservation within Ireland. They achieve this by designating protected areas, safeguarding species, and outlining actions to maintain healthy ecosystems for wildlife.

Some of the main points of the Regulations are:

  • Site Designation: The Regulations establish a process for identifying and designating specific areas as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) for habitats and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for birds. These areas form a network of protected ecological sites across the EU called Natura 2000.
  • Species Protection: The Regulations enforce protection for all wild bird species naturally occurring in Ireland. Additionally, they focus on conserving other animal and plant species identified as being of Community interest (i.e., rare, threatened, or crucial for biodiversity).
  • Conservation Measures: The Regulations require measures to be taken to maintain or restore the ecological condition of protected sites. This includes controlling activities that could harm habitats or bird populations, such as pollution, habitat degradation, and unsustainable hunting.
  • Appropriate Assessment: The Regulations include provisions regarding plans and projects which may have an effect on European sites, namely the undertaking of an Appropriate Assessment (AA) and the production of a Natura Impact Statement (NIS);
  • Activities requiring Ministerial consent: Where the Minister considers that an activity may have an adverse effect on a European site, he/she may direct that the activity is not carried out without his/her consent.
  • Enforcement: The Regulations appoint authorised officers to ensure compliance with the legislation. They have the power to investigate offences and take enforcement actions.

Read more about the Birds and Natural Habitats Regulations here.

Last updated: 28/05/2024