Losing our habitat

Mon, Feb 4, 2013, 00:00

Sir, – It seems an appropriate time to address the issue of habitat loss now that Ireland has taken up presidency of the EU and the Common Agricultural Policy is under discussion. I think the environment should be at the centre of any CAP agreement, a view I understand is directly opposed to that of the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney.

Let me offer my own experience of new farming practices in west Cork.

Huge machines, more efficiently than ever, sweep the land “clean” of wilderness and bog and enlarge the fields. Now, excavators and rippers can break down a rough hillock of shale until it is level and then bury it under soil; I have seen an acre of rock being made into a field in just two weeks. And in the 15 years since I moved to west Cork, every bog in the townland has been drained or filled, albeit not always successfully.

I have watched as several species of birds go into sharp decline. Reed buntings and sedge warblers from the bog were the first to go; then, the ground-nesting birds. The meadow pipit is rarely heard now and I hear the night-call of the snipe only down at the estuary. In decline too are mammals such as the hare and stoat, and much other wildlife.

The landscape is a priceless resource. But now, everyone is afraid of the torrents of water that regularly tear up the roads, as rainfall run-off, which was once absorbed, flows too quickly to the sea. I have heard hunters complaining that the pheasants have disappeared because of the lack of cover. Most seriously, I would say that, because of habitat loss, the outlook for rural tourism is bleaker than before. – Yours, etc,

ANTHONY BEESE,

Rosscarbery, Co Cork.