People in Leinster want to improve biodiversity – but don’t know how

A new survey carried out by the Office of Public Works (OPW) has found that nearly two fifths of people in Leinster (58%) are unsure of how to help improve biodiversity, despite the overwhelming majority (92%) wanting to play their part in improving Irish biodiversity.

The findings come as the OPW launches its Biodiversity Action Strategy to improve biodiversity across its entire operations.

Recognising the importance of addressing declining biodiversity head-on, the OPW’s Biodiversity Action Strategy sets out how it will work towards promoting and protecting biodiversity over the next five years. The impact of the OPW’s new Biodiversity Action Strategy will be felt across its over 100 offices, 780 heritage sites, 5,700 acres of gardens and parkland, 11,500km of drainage channels, 142 flood relief schemes, plus many projects on a range of public and private land. The scope of its work gives the OPW great opportunities to increase the scale of biodiversity conservation achievable as part of the services it delivers.

The OPW is one of a number of government bodies working to support the delivery of the National Biodiversity Strategy. In its Biodiversity Action Strategy the OPW has identified 48 specific actions across five themes that it will undertake to embed biodiversity into all areas of its working brief. Among these actions is an innovative proposal to develop a ‘Homes for Wildlife’ programme where it will take a leadership role in designing and adapting lands, buildings and waterway structures to provide homes for wildlife wherever possible including safe roosting sites for bats, and nesting sites for pollinators and birds.

The OPW’s Biodiversity Action Strategy coincides with increased public awareness and concern about biodiversity, particularly amongst younger people, with up to 75% of young people in Leinster ‘occasionally’ or ‘frequently’ discussing the topic with their parents, grandparents, or guardians.  Despite this, a significant gap in knowledge exists as the research reveals that over two-fifths of people are unaware of any endangered species in Ireland. This highlights the need for ongoing public engagement and outreach and the OPW is keen to continue to build on this work at a number of its sites.  It will capitalise on the high level of expertise among OPW staff by identifying ‘Biodiversity Champions’ to promote awareness of significant species and habitats and deliver a programme of training and providing interpretation at all relevant visitor sites.

Commenting on the new Biodiversity Action Strategy, Rory Finnegan, Head Gardener of Castletown House and Parklands said: “Biodiversity plays a key role in the work we do at Castletown, from how we manage the property and surrounding grounds, to how it informs the way we do our guided tours and events. It’s great to see the OPW putting biodiversity at the forefront of its operations through the launch of this new Biodiversity Action Strategy. I have no doubt it will play contribute to improving biodiversity not just here in Castletown, but in Leinster overall.”

“It’s encouraging to see that 88% of people in Leinster recognise the importance of biodiversity on our quality of life. We look forward to welcoming the public to Castletown over the summer months and to show them how they can improve biodiversity right on their doorstep.”

To bring the Biodiversity Action Strategy home to the Irish public, the OPW is also launching a new online campaign #InOurNature to encourage and demonstrate to people how to promote biodiversity in their own homes. The campaign will be launched ahead of Biodiversity Week (May 15th-23rd), when the OPW will be hosting events at many of its sites throughout Leinster to engage the public in the biodiversity on their doorstep. 

Some of the events taking place at OPW sites in the Leinster region go from dawn to dusk with a Dawn Chorus walks for the early risers at Castletown House & Parkland to Dusk Bat walks at Kilkenny Castle for the night owls. The OPW has events across Leinster and the entire country designed to appeal to every age and interest. The OPW’s programme of events for Biodiversity week and its new Biodiversity Action Strategy are designed to show that the commitment to meeting the biodiversity challenge is #InOurNature.

The full list of Biodiversity Week events being hosted across Leinster at OPW sites can be found at https://heritageireland.ie/whats-on/.

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