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PRESS RELEASE: Irish Wildlife Trust opposes new UNESCO status for Killarney National Park

PRESS RELEASE: Irish Wildlife Trust opposes new UNESCO status for Killarney National Park
Since 1982 Killarney National Park has been a UNESCO ‘biosphere’ reserve which, according to the world body “promotes solutions reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use"[i]. In December last year the Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) complained to UNESCO after we discovered that contrary to their requirements the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), managers of Killarney National Park, had never submitted a ‘periodic review’ of the reserve status. We felt this was more than just a bureaucratic matter as the failure to submit such reviews meant that the Park could continue to use the UNESCO label as a marketing tool while ignoring the many and existential threats to this most precious place. We asked UNESCO to withdraw the ‘biosphere’ designation and to ask the NPWS to submit a new application.
 
For many years the IWT, and our partners Groundwork, have had serious concerns regarding the management of Killarney National Park in Co. Kerry.
 
In May, the IWT learned that a new biosphere application was being submitted and that a new ‘Kerry Biosphere’ is planned that would encompass not only the National Park but large areas of theMacGillycuddy's Reeks mountains – all of which are located within a Special Area of Conservation. However, the IWT has serious concerns about how this process is being undertaken – particularly as no public consultation is being carried out and no application document is being made available to us to review as part of this new application. We strongly support the idea of a UNESCO ‘Kerry Biosphere’ that recognises excellence in landscape management for people and wildlife. However, we do not want another branding exercise that will grant the award before we can have confidence that the major problems (over-grazing and lack of regeneration in the forest, hillside burning, invasive species, mismanagement of the native Red Deer population among them) are being earnestly addressed. For now, we have written to UNESCO firmly opposing the granting of a new ‘biosphere’ status in advance of these developments.
 
IWT Campaigns Officer Pádraic Fogarty says: “Killarney National Park and its surrounds is a very special place locally, nationally and internationally. Unfortunately, in Ireland we have too much experience of ‘greenwashing’ – where an environmental label is applied without any meaningful conservation actions to back it up. We don’t want to see this happening in Killarney and so, for now, we must oppose any new UNESCO designation."
 
The UNECO Man and Biosphere Council meets in June to make their decision.

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CONTACT:  Padraic Fogarty - IWT's Campaigns Officer - irishwildlife@iwt.ie  for further details