Biodiversity plan to enhance Westmeath’s unique habitats

Councillors have adopted a biodiversity plan to protect and develop the county’s unique plant and animal life up to 2020. The Westmeath Biodiversity Action Plan 2014-2020 identifies the unique natural heritage that exists in the county, and sets out an ambitious framework to protect and enhance the wide range of habitats, plants, and animals in Westmeath.

Senior planner with Westmeath County Council, Terry McCague, said the plan would act as a reference document for the council as well as communities and local organisations.

Speaking to members at Monday’s county council meeting, he offered some examples of the county’s unique habitats, which include the River Shannon Callows, Lough Lene, Scragh Bog, and the Rahugh Ridge Esker.

Some of our native flora include meadow barley, slender cottongrass, varnished hook-moss, and narrow leaved helleborine, while fauna singled out for mention in the report include white clawed crayfish, marsh fritillary, Desmoulin’s whorl snail, golden plover, and curlew.

Mr McCague also highlighted the tourism potential of protecting and developing the county’s biodiversity.

The plan lists 102 actions to be implemented over its lifetime. Among these, the council intends to develop walking trails throughout the county to encourage walking and appreciation of the countryside; to organise biodiversity training and information events for community groups, and to prepare town biodiversity plans for Mullingar and Athlone.

Also included in the plan are examples of practical measures which can be taken to protect biodiversity at home, in the garden, on the farm, at school, or at work.

Cllr Una D’Arcy suggested that ‘bio blitzes’ be organised in areas of specific importance to help educate young people on the biodiversity of our locality.

Cllr John Dolan also suggested taking inspiration from the Lough Boora Wetlands in County Offaly to develop some of the county’s bogs.

The Biodiversity Action Plan is available to view on the council’s website at www.westmeathcoco.ie/en/ourservices/planning/biodiversity

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