Irish hares, lapwings and rare marsh fritillary butterflies could all be doomed in Northern Ireland if the Government introduces swingeing cuts to environmental funding.
That’s the warning from the RSPB which yesterday launched a campaign against environmental cuts on the steps of Stormont — aided by a scythe-wielding Grim Reaper.
Supported by children and a business owner, the wildlife charity warned the Executive not to make the mistake of treating the environment as a “soft touch” when it decides where the axe should fall.
Launching the Don’t Cut The Life From Our Environment campaign, RSPB director Dr James Robinson said the environment offers hidden benefits which save or bring in huge amounts of money each year.
He said the environment employed more than 33,000 people in full-time jobs and contributes £573m towards the economy, while Areas of Special Scientific Interest bring in £650,000 a year to farmers.
Major cuts to environmental funding would threaten the futures of many more species currently under environmental protection, including the Irish hare, red squirrel, marsh fritillary butterfly, hen harrier and Irish Lady’s tresses orchid, Dr Robinson warned.
“Northern Ireland’s environment has been so badly neglected over the past 40 years,” he said.
“We have not had all our most important wildlife sites designated and protected, nor have we managed to secure the future of iconic species like corncrake, lapwing and yellowhammers.
“If we do not fund the environment now, future generations will be left to pick up the bill.
“This will include pollution, poor health and of course, a countryside bereft of wildlife.”