Farmers will not be forced to rewet their land, Minister pledges

Bord na Móna machines fill in the ditches on Clonwhelan Bog, Edgeworthstown, Co Longford, as part of the rewetting. Photo: Jeff Harvey

Niall Hurson

Farmers will not be forced to rewet their land under the EU's Nature Restoration Law, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has guaranteed.

Instead Ireland’s contribution to 2030, 2040 and 2050 rewetting targets will be met using state owned land, the Minister told RTÉ’s This Week show.

“Fortunately in the last couple of weeks we have achieved significant progress at European level with regard to the council of Ministers position in that there has been flexibility secured… there will be flexibility that reflects the Irish situation,” Minister McConalogue said.

“So that means basically, should we be able to secure that finally at European level, that it would provide reassurance to farmers that there will be no requirement on them to mandatorily rewet their land.”

Meanwhile, Bord na Móna’s flagship rewetting project has come under attack from landowners who say their properties and livelihoods are in jeopardy.

The company has begun rewetting 80,000 acres of drained peatlands, but farmers say they will have an adverse effect if the project goes wrong.

Several hundred farms adjoin the project site in the midlands, and farmers have sought written assurances that Bord na Móna will remedy any damage should their lands become flooded.

Reacting to this pushback, Minister McConalogue said that impact on farmers would be central to any decision to rewet land.

“That’s something that will have to be absolutely fully accommodated and considered in relation to every proposal to rewet, whether lets say a farmer wants to do it voluntarily and be paid for it, or whether its Bord na Móna or Coillte for example that are rewetting a part of land.”

Bord na Móna has said it will adjust its rewetting plans where a risk of flooding on adjoining land is identified, but the company stops short of agreeing to fix any damage that might happen.

The rewetting project is the focal point of Bord na Móna’s “brown to green” transformation from a peat producer to a climate solutions company.

The peatlands formed over tens of thousands of years from layers of compressed carbon-rich vegetation preserved in year-round wet conditions.

Drained and exposed to the elements, they are emitting large quantities of greenhouse gases. Rewetting halts the emissions and could, over the long term, restart the process of peat formation.

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