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Areas of Special Scientific Interest

Volume 450: debated on Tuesday 24 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps he is taking to ensure that the 95 per cent. of the features underlying the designation of internationally important wildlife sites and areas of special scientific interest in Northern Ireland are in, or approaching, favourable conservation condition by 2013; and what progress has been made towards that target. (96308)

EHS is due to complete the first six year cycle of monitoring of areas of special scientific interest in 2008. It is intended that the scientific information obtained from this exercise will inform the programme of work associated with the maintenance and restoration of these sites. The results of the first three years of monitoring revealed that almost two thirds of the scientific features of our ASSIs are in favourable condition.

EHS presently seeks to secure the favourable management of designated sites through the management of sensitive sites scheme (MOSS). 5.6 per cent. of land within ASSIs is currently subject to a management agreement. The number of management agreements that would be required to bring the remaining third of ASSI features into favourable condition far exceeds the resources available to EHS. Discussions with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development are therefore underway to consider the option of securing the favourable management of ASSIs through its agri- environment schemes.