A petition to rewild Wicklow Mountains has attracted over 1,500 supporters in just its first week.
It was started by brothers Danny, Simon and Ian Alvey originally of Wicklow Town. It is in response to a press release from Fáilte Ireland in conjunction with the Office of Public Works (OPW), National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and Coillte along with the National Monuments Service and Wicklow County Council on a Masterplan for the park.
“Rewilding the world around us by restoring habitats and improving biodiversity is an urgent and topical issue in the face of twin climate and biodiversity crises,” said Danny from his home in Newtownmountkennedy. “My brothers and I have spent our lives hiking and walking in Wicklow and can see how wildlife has been in decline.
When we heard about a proposed masterplan for the park we were disappointed to see no mention of addressing this issue but rather a focus on the ‘visitor experience’ by building more car parks, roads and walking trails. Anyone who regularly visits the Wicklow Mountains, will agree it is a National Park in name only, instead the landscape is dominated by Sitka spruce plantations that are regularly clear felled for commercial gain. Anyone who walks through the deathly silence of one of these monoculture woods will know that these plantations do not contribute to biodiversity or the ‘visitor experience.’”
The petition calls on the Minister of State for Heritage, Malcolm Noonan, to prioritise the removal of Sitka spruce plantations from within the protected boundaries of the park and the restoration of native woodland and other native habitats. It has been shared widely on social media in community fora and by local Tidy Towns groups and councillors.
Older brother Simon, now living in Rathdrum, said: “During lockdown everyone has been walking and exercising outside much more and last year visitor numbers to the National Park increased considerably. Anyone who travels from one end of the park to the other will know there is no true wilderness left and we need to change this by creating and growing a zone for native woodland and other habitats in the centre.
We welcome other aspects of this proposed plan to improve the ‘visitor experience’ by building new infrastructure and dispersing visitors to different sites across the park, but the true ‘visitor experience’ begins with the condition of the land and its flora and fauna and integral to this process must be an active management plan for improving biodiversity.”
Public consultation on the masterplan begins next week and the brothers urge the people of Wicklow to share their views and sign their petition on change.org (just search ‘rewild’).