Destruction of Priority Habitat Grey Dunes

Coastwatch is campaigning for the timely enforcement of environmental regulations. Here the case of the destruction of grey dunes in the Kilmuckridge-Tinnaberna Special Area of Conservation:
Over 11 hectares of grey dune were destroyed for years by John and Samuel Bailey in Kilmuckridge. After campaigns by coastwatch there are no longer cattle on the site. He often kept approx 250 cattle on this site, which should be stocked with 11 cattle at the recommended density (1LU/Ha)! He has admitted keeping up to 800 cattle on the site at times. He bulldozed the site and the area was polluted with cattle effluent. Effluent from the site has been directed into a neighbouring stream. Walkers on the beach have often complained about the smell while walking on the shore, the stench was from silage and rancid cattle effluent. On the right you can see ruined and intact dunes. This has been subject to a restoration order since January 2011, but while progress has been made, there has been a systematic failure to implement or police the requirements.

Kilmuckridge Dunes:
The Kilmuckridge-Tinnaberna sandhills Special Area of Conservation (SAC) contained approximately 22 hectares of grey dune before the start of the destruction, now much of that habitat, our heritage, has been destroyed. However, we can restore the site. It may take some decades before full restoration will be achieved. The close proximity of grey dunes in pristine condition should aid the recolonisation by native grey dune species.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) have failed the Irish public by letting this destruction continue. They were notified in 2002 of the destruction and have since taken little effective action to halt it.

Case History

*  The issue was formally brought to the attention of the NPWS by March 2002

*  An ecologist was commissioned to report on the situation and restoration options in August 2002. The report noted that 4 hectares were bulldozed and 7 hectares were overgrazed. It recommended the immediate removal of cattle from the site, recontouring and reseeding, protecting new ridges with cut vegetation, and leaving the site to recover naturally for a few years, and expressed confidence it would once again be a dune landscape of value.

*  In December 2003 a Department of Agriculture Good Farming Practice inspector noted "visual evidence of non-compliance with wildlife habitat requirements". In March 2004 The NPWS were explicitly asked to investigate and prosecute the case, and to report back on progress to the Department of Agriculture.

*  An Agricultural consultancy firm was commissioned to prepare a report on the farmer's practices in May 2004. They reported that no attempt was being made to farm according to good farming practices. They note that no facilities to collect animal manure existed, so urine and faeces simply build up under the animals feet, with animal wastes likely to seep into nearby coastal and ground water, causing pollution. They note it is in breach of planning law, and that no facility of equivalent intensity existed in Ireland. The lack of shelter or waste removal were noted as cruelty to animals. They note that the seepage of urine through the free-draining sand is the only reason the intensity can be maintained. They note that no compensation for discontinuation should be paid, as the operation had recently been intensified in a very opportunistic way. This expansion included the bulldozing of the entire 11 Hectares.

*  In 2005 Then staff of NPWS, rather than pursue any effective action, agreed with the farmer to phase out use of the site completely by May 2006, but meanwhile continue to keep up to 500 cattle on the site. The agreement was not complied with, as cattle continued to be kept on site.

 * In a NPWS national survey not connected to the case,  "human-induced destruction of fixed dunes" was noted in Kilmuckridge Tinnaberna sand hills between 2004 and 2006. The extent and future prospects were rated unfavourable and under threat due to agricultural destruction of large swathes of land.
Referenced in:,6709,en.pdf

* in late 2009 Coastwatch brought the issue to the attention of a local NPWS ranger, who denied knowledge of the issue and did not follow it up.

* On March 19th 2010, Coastwatch, frustrated with NPWS inaction, brought national attention to the issue with a report by Paul Cunningham on the RTE six-one news. On April 10th, The Gorey Guardian ran an article on the state of the site in the Special Area of Conservation. Under media pressure, NPWS sent a letter instructing that the lands may be subject to action including a Restoration Order, and that one of the requirements of the Order would be the removal of cattle from the site pending restoration.

* In May Coastwatch met with the NPWS regarding their response to the situation, and were told that a Restoration Order was before the Minister for the Environment. Coastwatch later saw the Order, and expressed severe reservations

* In July the NPWS circulated a new draft to Coastwatch and Coastwatch was invited by NPWS to give feedback. Coastwatch again gave detailed feedback, on 13th July, but also expressed concern that the weeds were seeding and should be removed urgently; and that the dung should be removed while the ground is dry to minimise pollution.  Coastwatch provided a redrafted schedule of works. Unfortunately, this redrafted schedule was not used in meetings with the IFA and farmer regarding site restoration. 

* In September the NPWS proposed a third plan which involved leaving most of the dung in place until 2011. Coastwatch argued strongly that this was not good practice for many reasons, including groundwater, stream and marine pollution, and the fact that dung removal is a prerequisite for restoration. Sand which may be deposited on the dung over the winter would be lost to the system if dung was only to be removed during the Spring. When no adequate scientific reason in support of this proposed retention of dung on-site was given, and no change of plan appeared to be forthcoming, Coastwatch walked out of the meeting. The six-one news showed an interview with Coastwatch in which our objections to the revised plan were highlighted.

11/10/2010 Coastwatch is working towards the immediate removal of dung from ths site as this is an important step towards restoration. 

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