The environment watchdog is set to get new powers to protect threatened habitats or species and also to raise the penalties for breaches.
Changes to the Flora, Fauna and Natural Habitats Protection Regulations, newly published for public consultation, will allow the Environment and Resources Authority to issue protection notices it said would allow conservation measures to be put in place in a timely manner.
Protection notices can include conditions or restrictions such as a prohibition on carrying out certain activities or works on the threatened site and even the control or eradication of invasive species.
Similar notices can also be applied to species with unfavourable conservation status or whose status is in decline.
New guidelines are put forward in the proposals for the regulator to propose ecologically-important sites for additional protection status. This designation, as well as the issuing of protection notices, can be appealed by landowners.
List of protected species is being updated
The amendments also introduce additional penalties for offences, particularly those carried out within protected sites.
Under the proposals, the fine for breaches of a site’s management plan provisions will be between €2,500 and €60,000, with the possibility of a two-year jail term if the offence persists for more than three months.
New safeguards will also be put in place for a number of species, including butterflies, orchids, corals and sharks, with different protection levels added to other species.
The list of protected species is being updated in line with the provisions of United Nations conventions on species and habitat conservation as well as recent scientific advances.
Moreover, the proposals are intended to strengthen provisions concerning invasive alien species, including the possibility of removal orders to facilitate the removal, uprooting or eradication of detrimental species.
The proposed amendments have been published in the ERA website and public consultation is open until March 8.
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