Irish Turf cutters, SAC Bog Owners, and The Hen Harrier

Anyone who reads my blog knows that the ongoing issue of the persistence of SAC raised bog owners in Ireland to protest their right to cut turf on their privately owned land is a debate that I see as being a slippery slope about land ownership and rights.

Indulge me, if you will, as I break down the grey areas about this ongoing battle and how it has developed. The more I read, the more questions I have about both sides here.

I fully understand the need to protect the land and endangered habitats and species. But I also fully understand the need to protect private land ownership rights. Yet, I don’t agree with freely destroying the environment. How much damage are the bog owners doing to the environment?

Lots of questions, lots of grey areas. And where all of this will end up, I just don’t know.

Commercial turf cutting machine (Image source: BBC)

Commercial turf cutting machine (Image source: BBC)

Grey Area #1: Turf cutting in Ireland was traditionally done with a sleán on a needs basis. Each household cut enough turf to heat their house for the upcoming winter.

Nowadays the cutting of turf is done by commercial turf cutters. It is far more invasive to bog land than the old fashioned sleán cutting.

A sleán (Image source Flickr.com)

A sleán (Image source Flickr.com)

Should commercial turf cutting be made illegal, and wouldn’t that mean that Bord na Mona would have to stop cutting turf also?

Grey Area #2: The Irish government is paying out many thousands of Euro in compensation to Irish farmers to stop cutting turf on SAC raised bogs.

Would it not be better to spend that money elsewhere such as developing artificial habitats, emulating raised bogs, on bogs owned by Bord na Mona?

Is that possible, I wonder? Can they create national wildlife preserves to provide safe habitats for the endangered species, such as the hen harrier and insects and foliage that grow and live in raised bogs.

Grey Area #3: Why is it that Bord na Mona went unchecked for decades as it destroyed raised bogs under its custodianship and today private bog owners are battling for their right to cut their turf?

Don’t forget that Bord na Mona is shipping peat over here to the US and running a competition on Ireland Earth, “Contestant must purchase one box ($32.00) of Ireland Earth Peat Briquettes through Amazon.com, and be within the first 1,000 transactions.”

And don’t forget that Puraflo Filtration systems are made from peat particles shipped from Ireland to Maryland, USA. Both Ireland Earth and Puraflo are owned by Bord na Mona.

Motivation?

Motivation?

Grey Area #4: Is this all about the money? Are there possible “hold-outs” for higher compensation from bog owners?

Is Bord na Mona making big money from it’s bogs and thus goes after the little guy who doesn’t make money for the government by cutting his own turf.

The government is watching the private bog owner and monitoring what they are doing. But who is watching the government and Bord na Mona?

Are commercial turf cutters going to lose out on their livelihood by not being able to cut as much turf as they used to? It’s a tough question to ask, but I need to put it out there…Is this all about the money?

The Hen Harrier, a protected species of bird of prey in Ireland (Image source: www.hidephotography.com )

The Hen Harrier, a protected species of bird of prey in Ireland (Image source: http://www.hidephotography.com )

Grey Area #5: Why would someone advocate getting rid of an endangered species such as the hen harrier, described as a “pest,” on a recent Facebook post?

Is this bird of prey invasive? Is it thriving so well it is destroying other wildlife? Can it be hunted and eaten? Is it flying off with a small dog or cat in it’s talons?

Why else would someone advocate getting rid of this bird, a protected species, unless that person just wanted to stir the pot even more between the NPWS and bog owners. Is this debate about the right to cut turf on privately owned bogs or the right to go out and kill endangered species simply because they are “pests?”

I firmly believe in having codes as to how we build our homes, how we protect the land, leaving this earth as we found it. But shouldn’t the government who is enforcing the laws be answerable to those same laws?

Shouldn’t the government step in and try to find a middle, a common ground between environmentalists and bog owners? Relocation bogs may not be the answer. If Bord na Mona has bogs for relocation, why can’t these bogs be used to recreate the environment of a raised bog by keeping all the peat being shipped to America and building an artificial habitat to protect the endangered species that environmentalists and conservationists fight for?

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