April 29, 2021
Environment Minister must launch cross-departmental response to Mournes Fire – Hazzard

Sinn Féin’s Chris Hazzard MP has asked the Environment Minister Edwin Poots to urgently establish a cross-departmental taskforce to respond to last weekend’s wildfire in the Mournes. 

The South Down MP has also called on Minister Poots to publish the long overdue draft Peatlands Strategy which would help protect and manage some of the north’s most fragile habitats. 

Mr Hazzard said: 

“Having watched the fires engulf the Mournes at the weekend we all feared that the days and weeks ahead would be difficult, but having visited the affected area this week I have been genuinely shocked at the extent of the devastation. 

“Much of the area is scarred with the charred remains of fragile flora and fauna; with the sickening evidence of the deadly impact of this fire on local wildlife plain to see. 

“Local agencies cannot be left alone to pick up the pieces and restore this fragile habitat. 

“The Environment Minister must urgently convene a cross-departmental taskforce that brings together the experience, focus and most importantly, resources, in order to meet the unprecedented challenges in rejuvenating this area. 

“The scenes of environmental destruction in the Mournes show the urgent need to protect our precious habitats, especially our peatlands. 

“If managed correctly, peatlands play an important role in supporting rich ecosystems, improving water quality; and also protecting our communities from the localised consequences of climate change.

“For some time now a draft peatlands strategy has sat with the minister awaiting publication; there can be no more delay; Minister Poots must publish this strategy as soon as possible.”

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