Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Northern Ireland wildlife strategy isn’t working

Northern Ireland is on course to fail its own targets for wildlife protection in 2016, according to a group of wildlife experts appointed by the Government.

Despite a host of measures put in place to halt losses of our most treasured species, all the evidence suggests wildlife in our countryside and sea remains in decline, the Northern Ireland Biodiversity Group (NIBG) warned in its second review of Northern Ireland’s Biodiversity Strategy.

The strategy was signed off in 2002 and prompted a series of action plans aimed at stopping biodiversity losses. However, Government scientists remain unable even to come up with statistics to show how species such as the red squirrel are faring as a result of those measures, NIBG chairman Dr Bob Brown warned.

Northern Ireland has some 271 plants and animals classed as ‘priority species’ in need of action to prevent them from declining but figures showing how they are doing are few and far between.

And of 18 species specifically singled out for conservation efforts in recent years, only the hen harrier appears to be rebuilding its numbers, Dr Brown said.

“We have a large number of priority species but the Northern Ireland Environment Agency was not able to give data on all of them, although we know they are at a low ebb,” he said. “The Irish lady’s tresses orchid appears to have suffered real reductions on its main site at Lough Neagh but we haven’t been supplied data. There isn’t enough data for a proper evaluation.

“As for the red grouse, there have been all sorts of introductions in the past but we think as far as our own birds are concerned we have around 220 pairs. The red squirrel is also still disappearing.”

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