Northern Ireland legislation

 

The principal nature conservation legislation in Northern Ireland relates to nature reserves, Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSIs), wildlife protection and the implementation of the Habitats Directive.

 

Nature Reserves

 

The Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 provides the Department of Environment for Northern Ireland with the power to acquire land for the purpose of managing it as a nature reserve.  The Department may also enter into a management agreement with the owners and occupiers of land for this purpose.  The Order also makes provision for the establishment of marine nature reserves.  Byelaws can be made to protect both nature reserves and marine nature reserves.

 

Areas of Special Scientific Interest

 

The Environment (Northern Ireland) Order 2002 provides the Department of Environment for Northern Ireland with the power to declare areas of land as Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI) where the land is of special interest by reason of its flora, fauna, geological, physiographical or other features and needs to be protected.  An owner or occupier may not carry out an operation specified in the declaration unless consent is granted for them to do so, or unless the operation is carried out as part of a management agreement or management notice.  The Department may serve a management notice on an owner or occupier requiring him to carry out necessary management work specified in the notice.  Public bodies are required to further the conservation and enhancement of ASSI land through the appropriate exercise of their functions.

 

Wildlife

 

The Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 makes it an offence to intentionally kill, injure, or take any wild bird or their eggs or nests.  Special penalties are available for offences related to birds listed on Schedule 1, for which there are additional offences of disturbing these birds at their nests, or their dependent young.  The Order also prohibits certain methods of killing, injuring, or taking birds, restricts the sale and possession of captive bred birds, and sets standards for keeping birds in captivity.

 

The Order makes it an offence to intentionally kill, injure, or take, possess, or trade in any wild animal listed on Schedule 5, and prohibits interference with places used for shelter or protection, or intentionally disturbing animals occupying such places.  The Order also prohibits certain methods of killing, injuring, or taking wild animals.

 

The Order makes it an offence to pick, uproot, trade in, or possess (for the purposes of trade) any wild plant listed in Schedule 8, and prohibits the unauthorised intentional uprooting of such plants.

 

The Order contains measures for preventing the establishment of species not native to Northern Ireland which may be detrimental to native wildlife, and prohibits the release of animals and the planting of plants listed on Schedule 9.  It also provides a mechanism making any of the above offences legal through the granting of licences by the appropriate authorities.

 

The Wildlife and Natural Environment Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 amended the Wildlife Order by giving protection to a wider range of plants, animals and birds, and providing additional enforcement powers and increased penalties for wildlife related offences. The Act also introduced a statutory duty on all public bodies to further the conservation of biodiversity.

 

Habitats Directive

 

The Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc.) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1995 (as amended) provide for the designation, protection and management of 'European Sites', the protection of 'European Protected Species' and the adaptation of planning and other controls for the protection of European Sites. European Sites are Special Areas of Conservation listed under the EC Habitats Directive and Special Protected Areas classified under the EC Birds Directive.

 

The principal nature conservation legislation in Northern Ireland relates to nature reserves, Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSIs), wildlife protection and the implementation of the EC Habitats Directive.

 

May 2014