Cutaway bog vs. Rural Environmental Protection Scheme – on cost benefit, could cutaway deliver more for biodiversity?

Kieran Buckley

After Wise Use – The Future of Peatlands, Proceedings of the 13th International Peat Congress: Peatland After-Use

biodiversity, cost-benefit, cutaway, reps

Buckley 2008: Cutaway bog vs. Rural Environmental Protection Scheme


Introduced in 1994, The Rural Environmental Protection Scheme (REPS) has cost the Irish tax payer and the European Union billions of Euro – but has it delivered a cost benefit for biodiversity, or have we overlooked the potential of industrial cutaway bog to deliver more for biodiversity at a fraction of the cost? The National Biodiversity Plan sets out a number of key objectives including the conservation of species diversity, the con- servation of all sites of biodiversity importance and to advancing other obligations of the Convention on Biological Diversity in the EU, regionally and internationally. In the forthcoming REPS 4 scheme, the average farmer in Ireland will receive a payment of €7,220 per year until 2013. Based on the number of farmers predicted to join the REPS 4scheme, this equates to €400 million per year, and by the end of 2013 the final cost to the exchequer will be €1.6 billion. What would a tiny fraction of this money do for biodiversity if it were directed to habitat creation on cutaway? The dynamic nature of cutaway lends itself to exploitation for enhancing biodiversity. Others see cutaway bog as an opportunity to reduce Ireland’s dependence on fossil fuel by using exhausted peatland for the production of bio-fuels.
Grey Partridge (Perdix perdix) and Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) are both Red Listed species in Ireland. His- torically both of these species were associated with traditional farmland. In more recent times however, these birds have retreated to the cutaway bog because agricultural landscapes can no longer support breeding populations. Lough Boora Parklands has subsequently become a nationally important site for breeding Lapwing. Similarly, Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus), an Annex I species of the EU Birds Directive, also exploit the cutaway managed for Grey Partridge at Boora in the Irish midlands. In this paper I will explore the potential of cutaway bog compared to that of REPS to enhance Irish national biodiversity and deliver a bonus for wildlife at a fraction of the cost to the exchequer.