Funding and staffing for the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) have been restored to pre-financial crisis levels, with the service receiving a budget allocation of more than €47 million.
Previous cutbacks at the NPWS at a time of accelerating loss of biodiversity had been heavily criticised by wildlife and environmental groups.
However, Green Party TD and Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan said the allocation "shows the Government recognises the value of nature and the importance of addressing the biodiversity emergency". The allocation has increased by 64 per cent over the last two budgets.
"Protecting, enhancing and restoring nature in Ireland is my key priority...we can see this position is supported by our Government partners," Mr Noonan said.
“Nature has been a refuge for many people over the past 18 months, and more of us than ever now understand that we need to take better care of it. This budget shows there is a collective commitment at the highest levels to doing just that.”
He said the investment would strengthen capacity to restore and protect Ireland’s most precious habitats and vulnerable species, including peatlands, and greatly assist in the investigation of wildlife crime.
The extra funds would also enhance management of national parks and nature reserves, and facilitate establishment of an expanded habitats conservation programme which would “deliver support to more than 400 special area of conservation sites across the country”.
The NPWS announcement is part of an overall €133.5 million heritage package, an increase of 87 per cent increase since 2020. This comprises €24 million for built and archaeological heritage, including funding for the popular Community Monuments Scheme and Built Heritage Investment Scheme.
“This also recognises the value that our built and archaeological heritage plays in Irish life,” Mr Noonan said.
“The investment will enhance its protection, creating many thousands of days’ employment for skilled conservation specialists and tradespeople across hundreds of projects nationwide, as well as supporting conservation, health and safety, and visitor infrastructure projects across our 87,000-hectare network of national parks and reserves.”
He said heritage funding reached into every corner of the country, “delivering benefits for our most precious habitats and most vulnerable species, for rural economies and for society as a whole”.