Sites for Wildlife
A habitat is simply a place where something lives, whether it is animals, plants or people. Among our most important habitats are the hedgerows of the County. Habitats have been recorded for large areas of Laois as part of a Heritage Council-funded Habitats Survey programme. Details are in the Heritage Publications section.
Some of the most important habitats for wildlife are protected through designation. The majority of these sites are privately owned, and designation means that the landowners have special responsibility, in collaboration with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, to protect the wildlife and habitats on these sites. These sites are listed in the County Development Plan, and their wildlife importance must be taken into account in any development proposals. In addition, special incentives through schemes such as the GLAS Scheme are made available to farmers with designated sites.
The main types of biodiversity designation are:
- Natural Heritage Areas (NHAs) nationally important sites protected by the Irish Government through the Wildlife Act.
- Special Areas for Conservation (SACs) are sites of international importance for their habitats (eg blanket bog) or particular species (eg Salmon) and to which the European Union has asked Ireland to give special protection.
- Special Protection Areas (SPAs), are sites of international importance for birds. Part of the Slieve Bloom mountains and part of the River Nore are Special Protection Areas for birds.
Other designations include National Nature Reserves and Ramsar sites.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Arts, Heritage, Rural, Regional and Gaeltacht Affairs has full details on all protected sites in Ireland.