Representatives from the UFU’s hill farming committee and the South West Down Group have met with the Mourne Heritage Trust and the Northern Ireland Fire Service to discuss wildfires in the Mourne area.
In 2011 the Fire Service experienced difficulties with wildfires in the eastern Mourne area due to very dry weather conditions. The cost of dealing with such events came at a great cost to the tax payer as well as having a detrimental impact on the environment and the local community. Following the publishing of the ‘Eastern Mournes Wildfire Project’ report in recent years a stakeholder group named the Mourne Wildfire Group has now been established and was the focus of the meeting.
While the proposals to try and reduce the incidence of wildfires are to be welcomed, farmers in the area had concerns about how establishment of the group would impact on them.
Farmers argued that as the land managers of the area, they must take a lead role in the project and that it was essential that more was done to reduce the impact Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSIs) were having on their ability to run a business and manage the land properly.
Concerns were also noted that since the introduction of ASSI’s in the Mourne area, the restrictions were leading to land abandonment and increasing the forage fuel that was available should a wildfire start.
Further involvement in the Mourne Wildfires Group will be discussed at the next UFU Hill Farming Committee.