The German „Serengeti“ – large-scale grazing with Heck-cattle in Thuringia


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Farmers, livestock, habitats and fire in Ireland

Burren Winterage School workshop, 27/10/23

Fire poses one of the greatest threats to habitats in Ireland, yet properly used it can be a useful tool in the maintenance of habitat mosaics and even in the reducing the risk of wildfire itself.  Grazing animals are vital for the maintenance of semi-natural habitats and can reduce fire risk by controlling the fuel load.

Farmers, through their control and targeting of grazing pressure, and their use of controlled burning and other management techniques such as mowing, can be a skilled, cost-effective means of delivering not only food but a whole range of public goods, not least habitats in favourable condition and low fire risk.

When it comes to fire and fire risk management, current policy lacks subtlety.  Centred on regulation and penalties, collaborative working and appropriate capacity building is largely weak or absent.  Farmers and livestock are not treated as potentially valued tools in the fire service's toolbox; farmers themselves are not offered the training and equipment they in turn need in their own toolbox; State support schemes largely ignore the fire issue, whether as a positive habitat management tool or a threat which can be reduced through appropriate action.

Inspired by a review of current practice in France, Spain and California, the workshop looked at three sets of questions:

  • How can joined-up government for fire risk management come about in and between Irish public bodies?
    • Any current good element to build upon?
    • What are the impediments?
    • What are the first steps?
  • How can a coherent mix of appropriate, workable measures be designed and delivered in Ireland?
    • Any current good elements to build upon?
    • What are the impediments?
    • What are the first steps?
  • Are graziers destined always to be occasional ‘partners’ to be engaged when it suits in wider fire risk management?
    • If not, what needs to change?
    • What are the first steps?


  • Gwyn Jones – Introduction (Download PDF)
  • Barry O’Donoghue – Statutory conservation agency perspective (Download PDF)
  • Declan Byrne – Farm advisor/ cooperation project manager perspective (Download PDF)
  • Birgit Pohle & Jean-Claude Coulet – French practitioner perspective (Download PDF)
  • Colin Abel – English practitioner perspective (Download PDF)


Coming soon…

The Burren Winterage School was organised by EFNCP in collaboration with the Burrenbeo Trust and with funding from the Heritage Council and DAFM. Opinions expressed may not reflect the views of partners or funders. Thanks to Declan Byrne and Barry O’Donoghue for their invaluable input to the preparation of the event.

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European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism
Date: 2024/07/19
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