Natural Heritage Areas (NHA)

The basic designation for wildlife is the Natural Heritage Area (NHA). This is an area considered important for the habitats present or which holds species of plants and animals whose habitat needs protection.

To date, 75 raised bogs have been given legal protection, covering some 23,000 hectares. These raised bogs are located mainly in the midlands. A further 73 blanket bogs, covering 37,000ha, mostly in western areas are also designated as NHAs.

The Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) is compiling a list of geological/geomorphological sites in need of protection through NHA designation. A committee of expert geologists provides an initial list of sites which then undergo a process of survey, reporting and review, to provide recommendations regarding NHA status or otherwise. The GSI has completed its list of karst (i.e. exposed limestone) and early fossil sites.

In addition, there are 630 proposed NHAs (pNHAs), which were published on a non-statutory basis in 1995, but have not since been statutorily proposed or designated. These sites are of significance for wildlife and habitats. Some of the pNHAs are tiny, such as a roosting place for rare bats. Others are large  - a woodland or a lake, for example. The pNHAs cover approximately 65,000ha and designation will proceed on a phased basis over the coming years.  

Prior to statutory designation, pNHAs are subject to limited protection, in the form of:

  • Agri-environmental farm planning schemes such as Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS 3 and 4) and Agri Environmental Options Scheme (AEOS) continue to support the objective of maintaining and enhancing the conservation status of pNHAs.  The farm plans operate for a period of 5 years.  REPS 4 plans will continue to operate until 2014.
  • Forest Service requirement for NPWS approval before they will pay afforestation grants on pNHA lands
  • Recognition of the ecological value of pNHAs by Planning and Licencing Authorities.

Under the Wildlife Amendment Act (2000) , NHAs are legally protected from damage from the date they are formally proposed for designation.

An archive of the Site Synopses for pNHAs can be downloaded here pNHA Site Synopses archive  [4.2MB].  This PDF portfolio will require Adobe Reader 8 or higher to view (some compatibility issues have been reported when using Adobe Reader with Chrome or Firefox browsers). Please note that these synopses are based in many cases on old survey data and may not accurately reflect the status of the site at the current time.

Click here to view boundary data for NHA sites on our map-viewer.