A major conservation award has been presented to two farmers from Birr, Co Offaly, for saving a raised bog at Sharavogue at Ballyegan.
Mr Liam Egan and his neighbour, Mr Patrick Headon, were recently given a special award by the Dutch Foundation for Conservation of Irish Bogs, in the Netherlands.
Sharavogue Bog is one of the best remaining examples of raised bog in Ireland as it contains pristine high bog but also preserves important relics of the original lagg-zone: the transition zone between bog and the surrounding landscape.
Such lagg-zones are extremely rare in the Irish and international context as they were lost in virtually every remaining bog site as a result of marginal drainage and peat cutting.
Because of this Sharavogue is listed as a Scientific Area of Conservation under the EU Habitat's directive.
This week, Mr Egan, who is very active in the Irish Farmers' Association and is chairman of its animal health committee, said he was delighted with the award.
The bog came under threat some years ago when an effort was made to develop it for peat extraction, he explained, adding that he and his neighbour, Mr Headon, a stud farm owner, took out an injunction against the developer to stop the drainage and destruction of the site.
"We began a search and found the original owner of the bog in England, a descendant of the local landowner, and we purchased the bog from him.
"We were then sued by the developer for loss of earnings and it dragged on for years and cost both of us a lot of money but in the end we won out and the bog has been saved," he said.
They later entered into a management agreement with Duchas, the heritage service, which is currently looking at repairing the bog.
"I just love the bog. I'm delighted that it has been protected and the area around saved from the exploitation of the peat with all the problems that creates," he added.
The International Award for Nature Conservation Merit was given in recognition of an outstanding contribution to peat-land conservation.
The presentation was made at Groenveld Castle in the Netherlands by the chairman of the Foundation, Prof Matthijs Schouten, in the presence of the Irish Ambassador to the Netherlands, Mr John Swift, and representatives of Dutch and international nature conservation organisations.
The Dutch Foundation for the Conservation of Irish Bogs was set up in 1983 to give international support to peat-land conservation in Ireland.