Burren Areas of Designation
Much of the Burren has been recognised as being of major conservation interest for many years, with designations such as ASI (Area of Scientific Interest) and more recently NHA (Natural Heritage Area) and SAC (Special Area of Conservation) having been bestowed upon it. In recent years these SACs has been surveyed by staff from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), who are responsible for the protection of these sites, and a Conservation Management Plan has been formulated for each SAC.
SACs and Protected sites in the Burren
There are five such SACs in the Burren, covering most of the Burren Upland region as well as significant stretches of the Burren lowlands and the northern shores of the region. These SACs were selected from the best sites in the existing NHA network.
Under the SAC designation, certain activities have been restricted, and lists of ‘Notifiable Actions’ have been prepared for each of the habitats present. The primary management objective for each of the Burren SACs is ‘to maintain and where possible enhance the ecological value of the priority habitats present’, habitats such as orchid-rich grasslands, limestone pavements, Cladium fens, turloughs and petrifying springs.
Natyre Conservation Area
These SACs are looked after by NPWS staff, including two rangers on the ground – one in the east Burren and one in the west – and management based at offices in Corofin, just to the south of the region. Landowners with SAC land receive top-up payments as part of their Rural Environmental Protection Scheme (REPS) in compensation for limits placed on their farming operations and for income foregone. Those farmers not in REPS do not, however, currently receive any payments for this SAC designation.
The built heritage of the Burren has historically received a more significant level of protection. The Sites and Monuments Record (SMR) provides a numbered list of archaeological sites and monuments together with a set of control maps indicating their location and extent.
This record must be consulted in the course of any developments (e.g. monuments must be marked on all REPS plan maps to ensure the landowner does not damage them inadvertently). The Office of Public Works – Monuments Section is responsible for ensuring the protection of listed sites, including those more significant sites which have been classed as National Monuments.