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Heritage: Natural Heritage

Photo of Keel Beach, Achill Island

Natural Heritage

Mayo’s landscape is endowed with a wealth of diverse wildlife habitats, supporting a myriad of plant and animal species, which because of their importance in a national and European context require the designation of areas for their conservation. These habitats include bogs, lakes, rivers, turloughs, sand dunes, sea cliffs and native woodlands. Over 27% of the land area of County Mayo is designated for nature conservation.

Photo of a small Mayo river

The National Parks and Wildlife Section of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government have responsibility for the protection of designated sites and your local conservation ranger can be contacted through the Regional Office at Lagduff More, Ballycroy, Co. Mayo, Tel: 098-49996

While designated sites are important and need protection, nature conservation of the wider countryside is just as important; ancient woodlands, hedgerows, lakes and rivers all contribute to the rich diversity of species and habitats within the county.

View Natural Heritage Area map (gif - 238 kb)

View Special Area of Conservation map (gif - 271 kb)

View Special Protection Area map (gif - 47 kb)

View a map of Mayo showing areas designated for nature conservation (gif - 47 kb)

Natural Heritage Areas

Areas that are important nationally have been proposed as Natural Heritage Areas. Under the Wildlife Amendment Act (2000), NHAs will be legally protected from damage from the date they are formally proposed.

Some NHAs are also designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) or as Special Protection Areas (SPAs).

View a list of Natural Heritage Areas.

Special Areas of Conservation

SACs are the prime wildlife areas in Ireland that are also considered extremely important in a European context. Their selection and designation occurs through the EU Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC), which was transposed into Irish law in the European Union (Natural Habitats) Regulations, 1997. The directive lists certain habitats and species for which Ireland must designate SACs for their protection; habitats include blanket bog, raised bog, turloughs, sand dunes, lakes, rivers and woodlands. Irish species that must be afforded protection include salmon, bottle-nosed dolphin, otter and Killarney fern. Some habitats are deemed 'priority' and have greater requirements for designation of sites and protection.

View a list of Proposed SAC sites in Mayo.

Special Protection Areas

Special Protection Areas (SPAs), are sites that are important for birds, and the EU Birds Directive (79/409/EEC) is the primary mechanism for their designation. The Directive provides for listed rare and vulnerable species like the Whooper Swan, Peregrine Falcon and Corncrake. It also provides for regularly occurring migratory species such as geese and waders as well as wetlands of international importance for migratory birds.

View a list of Proposed Special Protection Area (SPAs) in Mayo.

Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas collectively form part of ‘Natura 2000’, a network of protected areas throughout the European Union.

Ballycroy National Park

Ballycroy National Park was established on 1st November 1998 and consists of approximately 11,779 hectares of Atlantic blanket bog in the Owenduff/Nephin Beg area of North West Mayo. The area contains some of the most important blanket bog in Europe. Blanket bogs are included in Annex 1 of the Habitats Directive as a priority habitat type. Ireland's western blanket bogs are the most important remaining in Western Europe and north-west Mayo contains some of the most extensive examples of this habitat type.

The Owenduff area in the Nephin Mountains in particular is a wild and remote area of blanket bog, cliffs and river habitats containing some rare species of plants. The area is also important as a roosting, feeding and breeding site for certain migratory species, including some species such as the Greenland White-Fronted Goose, which are listed in Annex 1 of the Birds Directive. The Owenduff River is of international importance in conservation terms and it is the last river in Western Europe, which drains a relatively intact, extensive blanket bog system. The scenery and wilderness qualities of this area are outstanding. The area of the proposed National Park is a candidate Special Area of Conservation and part of the Natura 2000 network.

It is proposed to develop a Visitor Centre in the Ballycroy area in the near future.

View a list of Non SAC/NHA designated Bogs, Fens & Turloughs of Conservation Interest.

County Geological Sites in Mayo

Sites of geological interest in Mayo or County Geological Sites are also listed in the County Development Plan. Many of the County Geological Sites are currently being assessed by the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) for designation as NHAs.

View a list of Geological Sites in Mayo.

Deirdre Cunningham

Heritage Officer
Mayo County Council
Áras an Chontae

Phone: 094 9024444

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