This successful project to protect and restore Abbeyleix Bog, located in County Laois, Ireland, has been hailed as a model for community-centred peatland restoration efforts and recognized as a textbook example of sustainable peatland management.
Thanks to the effective partnerships and bottom-up community ownership demonstrated over the past decade, Abbeyleix Bog was recently selected as a “Knowledge Site”, a prototype for best practice in community collaborative projects within the European Union’s Horizon 2020 WaterLANDS Projects.
In recognition of the many benefits of the project, the project was also recently awarded new funding by the Irish government’s Peatland Community Engagement Scheme. This funding, €75,000, will allow more engineering works to be implemented, so as to restore additional sections of the peatlands.
By restoring degraded peatlands, the Abbeyleix Bog Project has not only contributed to reducing carbon emissions – a boon for Ireland’s climate change mitigation efforts – but has also repaired key wetland habitats, which has major benefits for the nation’s biodiversity. In addition, the project has provided delightful recreation and education spaces, attracting walkers, students, researchers and nature lovers.
The project stemmed from the efforts of a local action group known as Abbeyleix Residents for Environment Action (AREA), which was established in 2000 with the aim of protecting and restoring the local peatlands.
The group entered into negotiations with Bord na Móna (a semi-state company that manages the nation's peatlands) and in 2008 Bord na Móna agreed to hand over the management of the Killamuck (Abbeyleix) Bog to the local community. Restoration work began in 2009. The group then signed a lease that allows the local community to manage the peatlands for a period of 50 years.
The lease made provisions for the formation of a legal entity to manage the site and the Abbeyleix Bog Project CLG was incorporated in 2011. The lease also provides for a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to advise on the management of the Project. The TAG consists of one representative each from Bord na Móna, the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), the Irish Peatland Conservation Council (IPCC) and County Laois, as well as four community-appointed representatives.
The Project also has an eight-member Abbeyleix Bog Management Committee, which meets regularly to discuss and approve various plans for the peatlands.
The Project’s primary objective is conservation, and its secondary objective is to provide an amenity for research, education and recreation. Using a community-based natural resource management approach, over the past 12 years the Abbeyleix Bog Project has implemented a conservation management plan and business management plan that aim to maximize the climate and biodiversity benefits of the peatlands and make the space available to the local community for low-impact uses such as education and recreation.
The Abbeyleix Bog site covers 200 hectares (ha), hemmed in by eskers of the glacial landscape. The high or raised bog habitat area is 103 ha.
"The project wouldn't have been possible without the help, support and collaboration from our partners, volunteers and the local community. We hope that this recognition and funding is the start of a new era in which community-led projects will benefit from greater monetary support and expertise,” said Chris Uys, of the Technical Advisory Group to the Abbeyleix Bog Project.
Commenting on the project, Dianna Kopansky, coordinator of the Global Peatlands Initiative, remarked, "This significant restoration effort serves as an excellent example for other projects, both locally and globally. Communities worldwide need good models for sustainably restoring and managing their peatlands, and the Abbeyleix Bog Project provides a remarkable one!”
For further information about the project, please visit the Abbeyleix Bog Project website.
This article was originally published by GPI.
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