IWT launch roadside habitats conservation project

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The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) has announced a new and innovative project called Networks for Nature, which aims to educate and empower local communities and tidy towns groups to manage and cherish roadside verges which are important refuge for biodiversity.

IWT conservation officer, Sean Meehan said: “With approximately 96,000 km of road and adjacent verges in the Republic of Ireland, they offer a significant area of potential habitat on a national scale for our flora and fauna.”

As a result of ever increasing pressures on habitats in the Irish countryside, roadside hedges and verges offer a sanctuary for a vast array of our wildlife and are recognised as important connections linking different habitats that are fragmented by roads, intensive farming and urban sprawl.

The decline of pollinators globally, including in Ireland, is well documented and by allowing roadside verges to grow wild, this could help to halt this decline of important pollinator species, such as bees. Incorrect management of these verges through insensitive and badly timed mechanical cutting (often in contravention of the Wildlife Acts that prohibit hedgerow and vegetation cutting and removal between March 1st and August 31st), litter and the use of herbicides are the greatest threats to these habitats and one of the principal aims of this project is to educate community groups and local authorities about the importance of these verges for biodiversity.

Irish Wildlife Trust chairman Dr Daniel Buckley stated: “The issues around timing and the appropriateness of hedge and verge cutting has become quite polarised. With this project we want to work with councils and local communities to come up with practical management regimes that enable the protection of biodiversity, while protecting human lives on our roads.”

The project is initially being piloted in South County Dublin through the Local Agenda 21 programme. The project will consist of a number of workshops that will engage with six local community groups in south county Dublin by providing education about the wildlife value of roadside verges. Basic flora and fauna identification skills will also be delivered and these skills will be used by the groups to survey roadside verges in their localities. In addition, it is hoped that a workshop/meeting will be held with local authority staff to discuss current roadside management regimes and to investigate biodiversity enhancing management of roadsides that is compatible with roadside safety.

The Irish Wildlife Trust hope to roll this project out nationally over the coming years, so if you belong to a community group who is interested in participating, or know of such a group, please contact us at conservation@iwt.ie for more information.