The Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2023, introduced in 2016, amends the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000. The 2016 Bill aimed to reconfigure the Raised Bog Natural Heritage Area Network, as proposed by the 2014 Review of Raised Bog Natural Heritage Area Network and by public consultation submissions.
The 2023 Act introduces section 18A(1), which provides for the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs to continue to conduct and complete the 2014 Review of Raised Bog Natural Heritage Area Network. The purpose of this review is to contribute to the goals of nature conservation by either preserving existing bog habitats or revitalizing them to achieve a favorable conservation status, to enhance the capacity of bog habitats to capture and store carbon, and to supporting initiatives related to bog habitats as outlined in a national plan aimed at addressing the decline of pollinators.
Another major objective of the Review is to select the most suitable bog habitats to be designated as natural heritage areas or to identify bog habitats which should cease to be designated as such heritage areas. When making the selection, regard can be given to environmental criteria, to economic, social and cultural needs, to facilities and projects which can significantly benefit the community and to strategic infrastructure development projects. The Minister may make a natural heritage area order or an order to revoke a natural heritage area after assessing the proposals of the Review and the observations or submissions received during a public consultation.
The 2023 Act amends the Act 2000 by introducing a Part VA, related to Biodiversity. Under section 59C of this Part, the Minister must prepare and publish a National Biodiversity Action Plan and guidelines within 3 years of the commencement of the section. The Minister may also publish a plan, programme or strategy and guidelines on the website of his or her Department or by other appropriate means. During the preparation of the National Biodiversity Action Plan, the Minister may consult with public bodies and the public.
Public bodies must have regard to the plan, programme, strategy, National Biodiversity Action Plan and guidelines prepared by the Minister during the performance of their functions. After the Action Plan is published, public bodies must prepare and submit a report specifying the measures adopted by the public body in compliance with the published plans or guidelines and the progress achieved in the performance of their functions. The Act empowers the Minister to give directions in writing to a public body, requiring it to adopt such measures that ensure compliance with the published plans and guidelines. A list of the public bodies which must comply with Part VA can be found in section 59H.
When the Act comes into operation, the Housing, Local Government and Heritage has 12 months to prepare a report on the average amount of turf required by an individual on an annual basis for the purpose of household use and present the report to each House of the Oireachtas.
The Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2023 Act has not yet commenced. The Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is to make an order designating the date on which the Act will come into operation.