With a significant increase in the number of people accessing land and hill areas, the Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association has called on Minister Catherine Martin, State bodies and the tourism sector to engage with farmers and ensure they are ok with the general public accessing their lands.
The INHFA President, Sligoman Colm O’Donnell, said the last number of weeks had seen an unprecedented number of members contacting their office distressed and frustrated by some hillwalkers showing scant regard for them and their property.
These farmers had outlined details of
• hillwalkers ignoring requests to not bring dogs,
• not staying to prescribed pathways,
• not closing gates as instructed,
• blocking access through illegal parking and on some occasions being confrontational and aggressive with farmers.
• And leaving large amounts of rubbish behind them”
In addition to this, with much of uplands being Natura 2000 sites (SAC or SPA designations) the increased footfall from tourists was now starting to impact and damage some of these sites, Mr o Donnell said.
He added that while recognising the economic benefit a progressive tourism industry can have for local communities, it had to be done in partnership with local landowners and farmers.
On this basis it was vital that all of those benefiting from this sector from, hillwalkers, tour operators, hotels through to County Councils engage with local farmers and address any issues of concern.
He also said there will be farmers and landowners who don’t want the public accessing their lands and this must be respected.
And he said the goodwill shown by many farmers should not be taken for granted.