Short as it was, we had a very fruitful discussion.
- We first of all tried to consider what we were dealing with
- was it the environment, was it biodiversity?
- Are these headings off-putting or do they encompass what we're
really concerned about?
- We ended up talking about the Natural History - perhaps more
all embracing because it brings in the context of history - past
nature and present and perhaps future nature as well.
- We felt that the Natural History of the Sliabh Aughties was
as relevant a term as anything else.
- The first thing we talked about was the nature of the uplands,
the fact that they're acid rocks, they're old red sandstone so
they support a different flora and fauna from the Burren for instance.
- And will never be as important as the Burren because the Burren
is outstanding in European terms - there are other Sliabh Aughties.
That being said:
- It's a very unexplored and undeveloped place other than the
plantations of Sitka spruce that blanket so much of it.
- And we thought that one of the positive things we could do is
to consider that aspect of it - the aspect of it being covered
in plantations and how we could shape that to be more environmentally
- To make it a better, richer place. In other words to improve
- We know that there is a report by Cillian Roden, very recently
written which is going into the Irish Naturalist Journal - sorry
that Cillian isn't here today I think he will be down in the afternoon.
- It's about remnant native woodlands on the side of the Sliabh
- He found three patches of native woodland which still have got
plenty of the native flora and fauna associated with it.
- In his view these woodland patches or remnants were never developed
or removed in the past. He can trace them back through old maps.
- So we thought we could use this as a nucleus for developing
a greater consciousness of the woodlands of the Sliabh Aughties.
- And perhaps encouraging local people, local communities around
it to replant the woodlands wherever possible.
- Perhaps using the neighbour woods scheme that exists throughout
the country for doing that.
- We felt that the wildlife corridor comes into play then - if
you plant trees snaking up the valleys or reaching up into the
uplands they will carry wildlife with them.
- Roden's report shows that there are quite a few rare plants
still found there like the Irish Euphorbia and there are some
rare butterflies in the trees there too.
We decided, just to summarise, having chosen the tree if you like
as the theme or the emphasis for the mountains that we would take
on a number of actions:
- The first would be to have another look at Roden's paper - get
him to present it locally or to get more publicity maybe surrounding
- And then talk to the people involved in biodiversity and nature
in this part of the world - the Heritage Officers, the Biodiversity
Officers, people like that
- And get a proper survey done on the hills so that we can find
out if there are more woodlands there or the extent that the woodlands
occupy of the uplands.
We then thought that the next phase would be an educational phase
- to talk to the people who are responsible for the running or the
operation of the mountains - the Department of Agriculture, the
local farmers, Coillte and the forest service particularly, the
county councils and so on - people who are associated with the mountains,
who work there, who are responsible for the mountains' upkeep etc.
- Try and get them into the idea of this change of policy and
- So that the woodlands can be given much more emphasis than was
the case in the past.
- And then we would like to reach out to the other groups here
who are interested in the social history, the folklore and other
aspects of heritage associated with the mountains
- And see if we could link across in a networking arrangement
- Where the wildlife, and the exploitation of the wildlife if
you like, in the nicest sense of the term, could be brought together
with how other people would see the use of those mountains.
In other words:
- That in the long term, brochures could be developed that would
look at both sides - the natural and social heritage of the uplands
- That paths and tourist accommodation could be brought into the
scheme of things.
- We wanted to do it in that way so that, if you like, tourism
was looked at at the end, not at the start. We felt as though
that was the rationale - it made more sense to do it that way.
So that's the way we were thinking.
- And we felt by giving it that thrust - particularly emphasising
on the arboreal cover of the mountains that it would give it some
sort of logical sense