The Department for Agriculture, Environment, and Rural Affairs has released The Northern Ireland Peatland Strategy 2021-2040. The strategy identifies the ecosystem services provided by healthy peatlands, including climate regulation and adaptation, specialised biodiversity, good water quality, flood alleviation and a historical archive. The strategy also highlights the role peatlands play as a unique landscape for recreation and education.
The strategy document acknowledges that restoring Northern Ireland’s peatlands will require “a collaborative approach involving government, landowners, land managers, public sector bodies and environmental groups, guided by scientific and technical expertise, appropriate legislation and policies and with a robust funding mechanism in place.”
The document outlines six strategic objectives with associated targets:
- Conserve peatlands & prevent degradation
Target: By 2040, all peatlands supporting semi-natural vegetation are being managed for their peatland biodiversity and ecosystem function.
- Restoration of degraded areas to functioning peatland ecosystems (designated & non-designated sites)
Target: By 2030, degraded peatland habitats are prioritised for restoration to favourable conservation status. By 2040, all high priority degraded peatlands will be under restoration management.
- Supporting Sustainable Peatland Management
Target: By 2040 – High Priority degraded peatlands in Northern Ireland are under sustainable management.
- Knowledge Sharing & Research
Target: By 2025, stakeholders understand the need for peatland conservation and restoration and have the capacity to deliver the Strategic Objectives and Actions contained within the Northern Ireland Peatland Strategy.
- Communication, Education & Access
Target: Peatlands are recognised for their unique biodiversity and ecosystem services provision.
- Governance, Implementation & Funding
Target: The necessary structures are in place to deliver on the Strategic Objectives and Actions contained within the Northern Ireland Peatland Strategy.
Within Strategic Objective 3, DAERA has highlighted a number of priority actions to achieve the target, these include:
- Encourage the reduction and cessation of the use of peat by all statutory bodies and agencies by end of 2022.
- Seek to phase out the use, import, and sale of peat compost in Northern Ireland by 2025.
- Conduct a review on the potential for a ban on peat extraction on all publicly owned land by 2022.
The strategy also commits to:
- Develop an Implementation Plan and Reporting Framework for the Peatland Strategy by 2022 with delivery phases, scale, and sources of funding and reporting metrics identified.
- Establish a Peatlands Partnership by 2022 – a multi-stakeholder group - to provide advice and support and to report to the DAERA Minister and the Northern Ireland Executive on the delivery of the Northern Ireland Peatland Strategy and the associated Implementation Plan.
- Carry out a 3-yearly review on progress with the delivery of the Northern Ireland Peatland Strategy and the associated Implementation Plan.
DAERA has launched a consultation to collate feedback from stakeholders in response to the Strategy. The consultation opened on Wednesday 9th of June and will close on Thursday 9th September 2021 at 23.59.
To read the full strategy and submit your views please visit www.daera-ni.gov.uk/consultations/ni-peatland-strategy-consultation