Social and community dimensions in cutaway peatland policy

Marcus J. Collier, John Feehan and Mark Scott

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

community, methodology, policy, social-ecological, symbiotic-planning

Collier et l. 2008: Social and community dimensions in cutaway peatland policy


Industrial scale harvesting of Irish peatlands has been described both as a technical challenge and a socio-economic opportunity. While these are widely discussed, and thus better understood, a third issue, the relationship of local communities to cutaway peatlands, is less so. Throughout history, peatlands were ‘developed’ in order to help alleviate unemployment in disadvantaged regions, and this driver is a key influencer of policy and outcomes. But as the resource exploitation in Ireland approaches completion, the new challenges beyond wise use are now being posed: should we conserve some of the endowment undeveloped? Should we restore the cutaway so as to provide recreation and amenity, and other environmental services? How should national policy and local and community policies be reconciled? As part of the transdisciplinary Irish Bogland Project, these dimensions have been examined. Using a combination of focus groups, national and local surveys, and personal interviewing new light has been shed on the social-ecological interface in cutaway peatland areas. In this paper, we will review the relevant literature, and report our methodologies and findings, including the implications for policy.