Natural Heritage

Natural Heritage describes the natural features of the countryside such as plants, animals, habitats and geology.  There is huge diversity of species and habitats within County Longford, which because of their importance at European and National level require the designation of areas for their protection and conservation.

The three main types of designation are: Natural Heritage Area (NHA), Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Area (SPA).

For information on the designation process, please click on this link (PDF file). 

Natural Heritage Areas (NHAs)

A Natural Heritage Area (NHA) is the basic designation for wildlife under the Wildlife Amendment Act (2000).  Sites are selected by having special scientific significance for one or more species; communities; habitats; landforms or geological features; or for a variety of natural attributes.  Longford has 4 designated NHAs including Forthill and Mount Jessop Bogs.

Natural Heritage Areas in Longford.

In addition there are currently ten proposed Natural Heritage Areas (pNHA) that are waiting designation to Natural Heritage Area status.

Proposed Natural Heritage Areas in Longford.

Special Areas of Conservation (SACs)

Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) represent the prime wildlife areas in Ireland that are also considered extremely important from a European perspective.  Their selection and designation occurs through the EU Habitats Directive (92.43/EEC).  The selected sites have been identified as being of conservation importance in a European context, based on the habitats and species they support, including both plants and animals.  The Directive has a number of Annexes:

Annex I -  Habitats listed on Annex I are those habitat types of community interest whose conservation requires the designation as a Special Area of Conservation.  Irish habitats include raised bogs, active blanket bogs, turloughs, heaths, lakes and rivers, many of which are found in Longford.  Some of these sites are known as priority habitats for which there is a particular obligation for protection.

Annex II - Animal and plant species of community interest whose conservation requires the designation of Special Areas of Conservation are listed on Annex II of the Directive.  In Ireland, these species include Lesser Horseshoe Bat, Salmon and White-clawed Crayfish, all of which may be found in Longford.  Supporting this designation is a list of Notifiable Actions which apply to each annexed habitat and species.  These are activities for which consent must be sought from the Minister of Environment, Heritage & Local Government.  Examples of activity which requires consent include burning or infilling of raised bog; failure to comply with this requirement may result in prosecution.  Lists of 'Notifiable Actions' are available from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) (see below for contact details).

There are currently 6 SACs designated in Co. Longford as listed below:

Special Areas of Conservation

Special Protection Areas (SPAs)

Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are sites that are important to supporting bird-life.  The EU Birds Directive (79/409/EEC) is the primary mechanism for this designation.  In County Longford, SPAs are generally wetlands, such as bogs, lakes and Lough Ree. The Directive provides for listed rare and vulnerable species like the Whooper Swan, Peregrine Falcon and Corncrake, of which the Whooper Swan may be found on Lough Ree.  These sites are important habitats not only for resident Irish birds, but also for regularly-occurring migratory species, such as geese and waders.  Such wetlands are of international importance for migratory birds.

Special Protection Areas in Longford.

National Parks and Wildlife Service

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Environment, Heritage & Local Government (DoEHLG)have a designated sites information line. Freephone 1800 40 50 00 from 9am to 5pm.  For further details about Ireland's environment and natural heritage, visit the NPWS website at