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Conserving Wildlife

Natural Heritage - Conserving Wildlife

Conserving and Enhancing Wildlife in Towns and Villages, A Guide for Local Community Groups

Download: Conserving Wildlife in Towns & Villages
The aim of these brief guidelines below, produced to complement the existing Tidy Towns Competition Information Guidelines, is to provide guidance for you, as a Tidy Towns participant, on conserving and enhancing wildlife in your town or village.

The National Tidy Towns Federation recognises the importance of conserving natural amenities and of appropriate landscaping. 70 out of a total of 300 marks are awarded by the Tidy Towns Federation to these categories. In addition, awards for the ecologically friendly management of all areas in and around a town or village are sponsored by the Heritage Council, and other agencies.

Towns and villages can support a wide range of habitats and species of local or even national conservation interest. Below is a list of the habitats commonly found in towns and villages together with practical guidelines for their management. To assist the Tidy Towns judges and promote all of your hard work it is important that whatever wildlife conservation and enhancement measures you undertake are highlighted in your Five Year Tidy Towns Plan. Also, remember to state that measures such as using native species and the avoidance of herbicides are national policy as outlined in the National Biodiversity Plan 2002.

General pointers

1. Leave things as they are
It is easier to keep existing habitats than to create new ones. Identify your existing habitats e.g. hedgerows, grassland etc, on a map and include in your Five Year Plan. Point out where the existing habitats are and highlight the fact that you are retaining them.

2. Networks of wildlife sites
Networks of wildlife habitats are more ecologically valuable than isolated wildlife areas. Where possible create linking corridors by planting/retaining hedges or keeping a strip of long grass along the road verges.

3. Appropriate species
The choice of the appropriate tree and shrub species is very important in urban areas where there are restrictions on space. Where possible, use native species. Trees and shrubs that grow naturally in the surrounding countryside are often the best choice for your town or village. They support local wildlife, thrive in your climate and soil conditions and require little maintanance. Non-native species support less wildlife than natives. Some trees, such as the commonly used Leyland cypress and Lawson's cypress grow very fast, present maintenance problems and are visually intrusive and support little wildlife. They are not recommended for planting in Tidy Towns.

4. Invasive weeds
Some non-native plant species are very invasive. These include Japanese knotweed and Giant Hogweed. If these weeds are in your town or village, get specialist advice on how to remove them.

5. Wild Flower Off the Shelf Mixes
Do not plant so-called "wild-flower", off the shelf, seed mixes. If you manage your area in the right way, native local wild flowers will colonise it naturally. Never introduce any sort of pond plant into a stream or other natural watercourse. Let nature do the job herself!

6. Grass Cutting
Manage wide verges and amenity areas in a "hay meadow" system with a first cut in June or alternatively keep cut until May and then leave uncut until August. Close-cut a metre wide strip at the outside to demonstrate that this is a deliberate choice of management. It is important to remove cut grass from areas being managed for wildlife. Consider setting aside a screened area for composting. Composting units for smaller quantities of gardening refuse including weeds and clippings are available from your Local Authority Environment Awareness Officer.

7. Interpretation
Where appropriate, provide suitable interpretation to explain the wildlife interest of the area. Seek advice from the NPWS Local Conservation Ranger and/or your Heritage Officer.

8. Protected Structures, Archaeological Sites
Prior to undertaking any work on protected structures and archaeological sites the NPWS Local Conservation Ranger and/or Heritage Officer should be consulted. Identify such areas in your Five Year Plan.

9. Sites designated for nature conservation
Prior to undertaking any work on sites designated for nature conservation the NPWS Local Conservation Ranger should be consulted. Identify such areas in your Five Year Plan.

10. Expert advice
Expert advice and information on wildlife conservation and management is available, often at no cost, from a number of agencies including: Conservation Volunteers Ireland, Birdwatch Ireland, Irish Peatlands Conservation Council, Networks for Nature, and Crann.

Longford County Council Heritage Officer - Máiréad Ní Chonghaile: 043-40731

Longford County Council Environmental Awareness Officer - Gary Brady: 043-43451

National Parks and Wildlife Service Local Conservation Ranger - Sue Moles: 086-8370492

More information is available in the Tidy Towns handbook issued to each committee. Copies are also available from the Department of the Environment, Tidy Towns Unit, Tel (01) 8882301