The European Commission has called on Ireland to ban turf cutting on Natura 2000 lands which are designated under special areas of conservation (SACs) to conserve raised and blanket bogs.

The Irish authorities have taken action to stop cutting, including by compensating peat and turf cutters, the Commission said in an opinion issued on Thursday.

“However, cutting activities are still ongoing and enforcement action appears to have stalled.

“Restoration activities have begun on some raised bogs SACs, but this is too slow given the importance of this priority habitat and its precarious state,” it said.

It added that when it comes to blanket bogs SACs, there appears to be “no regime controlling ongoing cutting” with the cutting for domestic use exempt from control.

Formal notice

In January 2011, the Commission sent a formal notice to Ireland, following up with a reasoned opinion in June of that year.

After a long dialogue with the Irish authorities, the Commission decided to issue this additional reasoned opinion to Ireland calling for a ban on turf cutting in these areas.

The Government now has two months to respond and take the necessary measures, the Commission said, warning that, otherwise, it may decide to refer Ireland to the Court of Justice of the European Union on the matter.


The European Green Deal and the Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 aim for the EU to halt biodiversity loss by protecting and restoring biodiversity.

In this context, the Commission has said that in addition to their biodiversity value, peat bogs are vital carbon sinks when healthy.

“Their protection and restoration assist Ireland in meeting its climate change goals not only in keeping the peat in the ground, but also by avoiding the very high carbon and other air pollution emissions which are caused when peat is burnt as a fuel,” it said.

What is an SAC?

SACs are “prime wildlife conservation” areas in Ireland, the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has said. SACs and special protection areas (SPAs) are part of the Natura 2000 network and there are 35,000 farmers farming land in these areas in Ireland.

There is over 2.2m acres of designated land in Ireland.

Read more

Map: almost 550,000ha of designated land under the BPS

Map: where Ireland’s designated land is located