National Trust ‘devastated’ at fire damage

The National Trust has said it is ‘devastated’ to see the impact the weekend’s wildfire has had on the fragile habitat of upper Slieve Donard.

Thursday, 29th April 2021, 8:17 am
NEWCASTLE, NORTHERN IRELAND - APRIL 24: Firefighters tackle the blaze on Slieve Donard mountain on April 24, 2021 in Newcastle, Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service have been tackling the moorland and gorse fire on the slopes of Slieve Donard since Friday and have now declared the blaze a major incident. Police have urged members of the public to stay away from the area as firefighters assisted by helicopters from the Irish Air Corp continue to tackle the fire. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
NEWCASTLE, NORTHERN IRELAND - APRIL 24: Firefighters tackle the blaze on Slieve Donard mountain on April 24, 2021 in Newcastle, Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service have been tackling the moorland and gorse fire on the slopes of Slieve Donard since Friday and have now declared the blaze a major incident. Police have urged members of the public to stay away from the area as firefighters assisted by helicopters from the Irish Air Corp continue to tackle the fire. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

In a statement the charity said this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty has been completely destroyed and will take years to recover.

The statement continued: “The heather landscape, which is a designated Special Area of Conservation, once alive with flora, fauna and diverse wildlife is now charred earth and ash.

“We would like to thank the incredible efforts of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, PSNI, Forest Service, Mourne Heritage Trust, NIEA and local community over the weekend.

“Without their efforts the fire could have reached the upper blanket bog area increasing the damage to the biodiverse environment on the mountain.

“The vulnerable landscape of the Mournes has provided joy to increasing numbers of visitors over the last year who walk here to enjoy the mental and physical health benefits that being in nature provides.

“We would appeal to anyone walking in the countryside to stick to the paths to prevent ground erosion, bring their litter home and of course, not to light fires or BBQs as they pose a huge risk to nature, wildlife and local communities.

“As a conservation charity we now need to focus on understanding the full impact of the damage caused and how we can work together with other agencies to rebuild this important landscape.

“There is an urgent need for all agencies and bodies to work together with local communities to develop a long-term vision for the Mournes, looking at land use, visitor management, infrastructure management and coping with a changing climate. It is essential this is adequately resourced,” the statement added.

“This tragedy also highlights the need for increased action for nature’s recovery and cross-departmental commitment to create an Environment Bill that gives legal status to ambitious targets for habitat restoration, soil health and biodiversity.”