Strengthening connections through nature – Minister Noonan announces twinning agreement between Wild Nephin National Park, Mayo and Yosemite National Park, USA

Date Released: Friday, November 10, 2023

  • Five Year ‘Sister Park Arrangement’ will support international co-operation to enhance management of national parks and protect nature
  • Announcement is made at ‘Mc Cann’s Cottage’, remembering the Great Famine in Mayo and emigration to the USA
  • Visitor experience at the park to be enhanced through bothies, providing shelter for hikers and a new walking trail to Jamsie’s Well.
  • Event marks the official launch of the ‘Wilderland’ Arts project for Wild Nephin and communities around the National Park.

Minister of State for Nature, Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan TD has today (Friday 10 November) announced a twinning agreement between Wild Nephin National Park in Co. Mayo and Yosemite National Park in California, USA.

The Minister made the announcement as he unveiled a plaque at McCann’s Cottage at Wild Nephin National Park. The cottage, which was originally home to local man Paddy McCann and his family until their death during the Great Famine, has been restored by National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) staff over the past year. As part of an innovative heritage project to restore former cottages for use as bothies, it will provide shelter for hikers, walkers and star gazers visiting Wild Nephin National Park.

Speaking at the event today the Minister said:

“Today we celebrate our efforts to manage and protect our natural heritage in the beautiful surroundings of Wild Nephin National Park. We also recall a dark and sad time from our nation’s history. We mark the lived experience and history of the community here in Mayo, many of whom were forced to leave their homes during the Great Famine. It is fitting here today that I announce this agreement between Ireland and the USA, which provided refuge for so many of our ancestors.

As we remember the events which will always connect our history, we also open a new chapter in our relationship – to protect nature and biodiversity in our National Parks, for the future benefit and enjoyment of local communities and visitors to National Parks in Ireland and the USA.”

Minister Noonan Twinning Announcement

The Sister Park agreement will enable international co-operation between both parks to support their shared goals in nature conservation and promoting natural and cultural tourism. Activities under the arrangement will include information exchange, collaboration and sharing good practice in areas such as community engagement, cultural and visitor service management, forestry and fire management, wilderness and dark sky management and climate change.

U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Claire Cronin said:

“I am delighted at the announcement of the Sister Park agreement signed by Wild Nephin National Park in Mayo and Yosemite National Park in California.  This agreement will foster collaboration to preserve and increase natural biodiversity, to restore healthier habitats, to encourage environmental education and to promote tourism and cultural exchange. 

In the U.S. we are proud of our National Parks -- often called “America’s Best Idea” -- and the National Park Service ensures that our parks’ natural beauty will be protected for generations to come.  I am confident that the professionals from Yosemite and Wild Nephin have much to learn from each other.”

Located in northwest Mayo, Wild Nephin National Park was designated as Ireland’s sixth National Park in 1998. The Park is home to Owenduff Bog, one of the largest intact active blanket bog systems in Western Europe, along with a wide range of protected species and habitats, including internationally important freshwater river systems and associated habitats. Wild Nephin National Park showcases some of the most pristine night skies in the world and is certified as a Gold Tier standard International Dark Sky Park, drawing new visitors to the park over the winter months.

Yosemite National Park in California consists of over 300,000 hectares, 95% of which is designated wilderness. Yosemite was designated in 1890 as a National Park and is home to five of the world’s highest waterfalls, granite domes and wells, deep valleys, giant sequoia groves and lakes. It is known for unique and pronounced landform features as a result of glacial action on granitic bedrock.

Denis Strong, Divisional Manager with NPWS, said:

“Wild Nephin National Park collaborates with many partners to protect our natural heritage and support biodiversity. This international collaboration enhances our partnerships and gives our team the opportunity to learn from a long established Park such as Yosemite National Park.   

While there may be differences between us, there are global challenges in our work – how to protect our most vulnerable species and habitats, visitor management, and wildlife related law enforcement. We look forward to exchanging knowledge and good practice about these challenges with our sister park in California over the lifetime of this agreement.”

Niall Ó Donnchú, Director General of the NPWS said:

“This kind of initiative reflects the commitment, creativity and dedication of staff in our National Parks to continually enhance their conservation work and develop their offer for visitors. I would like to pay special tribute to our outdoor staff who do this work in the most challenging of conditions, and to those involved in bringing forward this exciting partnership arrangement.”

Catriona Ryan, NPWS Director of National Parks and Nature Reserves added:

“Our National Parks benefit so much from exchanging learning and ideas through these relationships. Both Connemara National Park and Killarney National Park already have international twinning arrangements in place. We’re delighted to expand our international partnerships through this new arrangement.”

Minister Noonan and Wild Nephin National Park Colleagues

A signing ceremony for the Sister Park agreement will take place in early 2024.

During his visit, Minister Noonan also opened a new walking trail from McCann’s cottage up to Jamsie’s Well. According to local folklore, the properties of water from the well are said to hold the cure for kidney stones!