The State agency charged with protecting the natural environment, including habitat and biodiversity in national parks, protected sites and nature reserves, is not fit for the task, according to a Government-commissioned report.
The Review of the National Parks and Wildlife Service revealed that although staff were passionate, dedicated, and knowledgeable, it was clear that the NPWS wasn’t effectively aligned to protect the State’s ecology and natural heritage.
Jane C Stout (author) and Michel Cinnide (reviewer) prepared the thorough review. It was ordered by the Government under an agreement between the parties.
The EU Commissions environment Directorate has criticized the States’ management of the natural world. In January, it cited serious problems and urged reform in the areas, including water, biodiversity and governance, particularly access to justice.
According to the NPWS reviewers, their assessment was made at a time when Ireland’s environment was poor. This led to complex issues across biogeochemical systems, including climate, water, soils and climate.
According to the authors, 85% of Ireland’s protected habitats were unfavorable in 2019, with 46% showing ongoing declines over 12 years.
43% of the species that are protected were in an unfavorable status. For taxonomic groups which have had formal conservation assessments, more then one fifth of species were at risk of extinction. The review revealed that more than 25% of Irish birds were now considered to be of conservation concern.
The NPWS review highlighted the need for widespread, crucial reform and made 24 recommendations. These included organisational changes, operational reforms to meet multiple mandates of science, engagement, protection, and science; and increased resources to deliver a better service.
The review found that there must be a fundamental overhaul and restructuring of structures and governance, as well as a clear strategic plan and leadership to execute it. It also requires better internal and external communications. It also recommends re-energised and effective teams working together within and outside the organisation.
Legislation and challenges
The review found that the NPWS was unable to meet its obligations. It also stated that it cannot plan for or respond to future legislation and challenges, such as the Climate Action Bill (EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2030) and the Climate Action Bill (EU Climate Action Bill). It also noted that a number EU directives on environmental issues had not been fully implemented, and that multiple infringement cases against Ireland were pending.
The comments of the NPWS Review are similar to those made earlier by Aurel Cyobanu-Dordea (EU Commission environment directorate), when he spoke at the online Environment Ireland Conference in Jan.
Mr Ciobanu -Dordea stated that he wanted to bring up a few elements that we consider important and quite challenging in the Irish context. He mentioned water, nature, biodiversity and environmental impact assessments, governance issues, as well as access to justice. His comments included comments about EU environmental directive infringements and the cost of accessing justice in Ireland. He stated that Ireland remains the most expensive member state to file an environmental claim before the courts. . . Many people have incurred substantial costs simply by litigating the issue of cost clarity. This needs to be addressed. This is not something we say for the first.