O’Toole says they do what he tells them to do. And, contrary to what the department implies, this second complaint remains open, according to Groundwork’s records. (1) Rhododendron ponticum was introduced into the Killarney area of S.W. You should receive instructions for resetting your password. Rhododendron rescue: Couple 'trapped' in dense forest on Irish mountainside, What impact has Covid had on global climate? The National Parks Service, as the NPWS used to be known, gave its blessing to this enterprise from the outset. Groundwork members say they had had warm relationships with him prior to this point. Not only do they find rhododendron still growing there, they find more of it on almost every visit. The rhododendron strategy in the manual was not adhered to, and nor was the park plan implemented, at least in regard to Groundwork’s involvement. First, it implicitly concedes that something had indeed gone wrong in these woods, if “steps” needed to be “put in place” to persuade the commission not to pursue the complaint. Management said it could handle this work with its own – much less numerous – staff. O’Keefe and Good both agree that it is an urgent priority in 2019 to remove the plants that the group has geo-tagged, especially where they form “clumps”. I tell O’Toole and Cahalane that I have recently visited woods that had been maintained completely clear by Groundwork for decades, and which had supposedly been checked by NPWS staff or contractors only months or weeks before my visit. Good says: “We need to do a lot more monitoring… this is not an entirely new strategy for the park, but I think we are looking for an improved strategy, yes.”. Each trip took several hours, just to get in and out. We have no evidence of any of these commitments yet having been fulfilled.”. But their morale is generally very low. This restarts the cycle of infestation, making the original clearance a waste of time, effort and money. Free of factors that curb its population in its native Turkish and Mediterranean homeland habitats, it quickly and completely dominates very large areas if not managed well. • Rhododendron flowers produce large amounts of pollen and nectar and attract a wide range of insect visitors, including bumble‐bees which are thought to be the main pollinators. But this issue is just one symptom of a national malaise. Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password. This seems an odd characterisation of the group described so positively by the 2005 park plan. One must hope that the commitments the NPWS has made to implement an improved rhododendron strategy in Killarney will be honoured. These were not, by all accounts, holidays for the faint-hearted. O’Toole, who does not respond to follow-up questions based on the interviews with his colleagues, also says he would welcome an external review. But no scientific assessment has been done on the long-term effectiveness of these clearances. We should be considering Liam Lysaght’s recent proposal in this newspaper. On one drive, I point out to Cahalane that regrowth is very obvious in several “cleared” areas, with plants big enough to be easily visible at several hundred metres. This document remains on the service’s website to this day. Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. O’Keefe and Good both tell me they accept unreservedly that Groundwork’s annual data since 2013 on the return of rhododendron to these woods is accurate. And that might have been had three prominent Groundwork volunteers, local ecologist Bill Quirke and workcamp leaders Una and Trevor Halpin, not taken it upon themselves to continue monitoring sample patches of the woods they had cleared. In October 2011, a meeting was arranged on site in Killarney between Groundwork representatives and the NPWS, including Pat Dawson, representing management, and conservation ranger Peter O’Toole, in charge of rhododendron eradication. You go back next time and you won’t see them. “The rhododendron situation in Killarney National Park is gone so bad minister, nothing short of calling in the army is going to put it right.” Responding, Minister of State for Regional Economic Development Michael Ring said his department spent over €2m in Killarney National Park last year. Rhododendron was introduced to Killarney, especially around Muckross House, in the 19th century, and began to spread quite quickly. The US president-elect calls for immediate action as millions of people face losing jobless benefits. Rhododendron flower produces 7000 seeds which disperse through water and air, making this process even more complicated. .css-q4by3k-IconContainer{display:none;height:1em;width:1em;vertical-align:-0.125em;margin-right:0.25em;}playWhat impact has Covid had on global climate? The two men called Mountain Rescue after wandering lost for hours in Killarney ... rhododendron forest. I recognise and acknowledge the passion and commitment of all involved in the challenge of controlling and eradicating rhodo from the park.”, The following day, however, he wrote to his NPWS colleagues that “We (all three of us – as well as our divisional manager, Philip Buckley) were most upset at comments made by one or more Groundwork representatives and directed primarily at Peter, which we found offensive and most unhelpful.”, How the same meeting could be described by the same person, within 24 hours, as “informative and constructive” and then “offensive and most unhelpful” is hard to understand. The other two locations are near Nanaimo and Shawnigan Lake, both located on Vancouver Island. Killarney National Park (Irish: Páirc Náisiúnta Chill Airne), near the town of Killarney, County Kerry, was the first national park in Ireland, created when the Muckross Estate was donated to the Irish Free State in 1932. These oak woods are the nearest thing we have to the ancient forests that once blanketed this island, but infestation by rhododendron now threatens their future, two decades after they were completely cleared of the invasive plant. This name will appear beside any comments you post. As a result, Groundwork reluctantly ceased operations in 2009, rather than, as they saw it, give credibility to a strategy that they believed was guaranteed to fail. The pair, reported by RTE to be from continental Europe, raised the alarm at 2pm yesterday, September 14, after becoming disorientated in Killarney National Park. O’Toole, however, argues that he has developed his own successful methodology through trial and error. I ask O’Toole if he did not consider it a failure, at the outset of his tenure, to have lost the services of an organisation that had, according to published NPWS documents, achieved so much. Tussocks of moor grass, hidden boulders and bog holes try to twist your ankles at every step after that. It has proved an incurable problem in Killarney National Park as it completely smothers the undergrowth and allows for no regrowth, growing up to eight metres (25 feet), towering over other species and blocking out light with their thick, leafy canopy.” And where rhododendron had still not penetrated, excessive grazing by deer and sheep posed, and still poses, a severe secondary threat to natural recovery, gobbling up oak seedlings as fast as they sprang up. They had not only reached a vigorous flowering stage, but had demonstrably released countless seeds in previous years. Rhododendron ponticum at Killarney National Park. This statement deserves analysis. Killarney National Park was chosen as Ireland’s Best Day Out by The Irish Times in 2015, reflecting its well-deserved status at home and abroad for recreation, natural beauty and its bountiful weave of plant and animal life. After all, they are in the hands of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), whose self-declared primary mission is “the conservation of ecosystems to maintain and enhance flora and fauna”. Irish broadcaster, RTÉ, said the rhododendron plants have become "jungle-like" in parts of the park. While there were robust exchanges, by all accounts, some of Groundwork’s key points appeared to be accepted. “I wish they were still here,” he says. For the next 6km there are no clear or obvious trails to follow but with a bit of common sense with the lake to your left, map reading skills and using GPS on our App, the route should be no problem. Michael Healy-Rae warned the Dáil (Irish parliament) in February. .css-1hlxxic-PromoLink:link{color:inherit;}.css-1hlxxic-PromoLink:visited{color:#696969;}.css-1hlxxic-PromoLink:link,.css-1hlxxic-PromoLink:visited{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}.css-1hlxxic-PromoLink:link:hover,.css-1hlxxic-PromoLink:visited:hover,.css-1hlxxic-PromoLink:link:focus,.css-1hlxxic-PromoLink:visited:focus{color:#B80000;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;}.css-1hlxxic-PromoLink:link::after,.css-1hlxxic-PromoLink:visited::after{content:'';position:absolute;top:0;right:0;bottom:0;left:0;z-index:2;}Rhododendron rescue: Couple 'trapped' in dense forest on Irish mountainside, Plea for Irish army to fight 'aggressive' rhododendrons, Biden urges Trump to sign Covid bill into law. Indeed, the service was among Groundwork’s greatest admirers. What impact has Covid had on global climate? Quirke wants something else too, though: he wants to “hold accountable” those responsible for “this public service scandal”. The park’s oak woods are among the most diverse – and rarest – ecosystems in the country. Yet in these conditions, Groundworkers achieved something some experts had doubted was possible: the complete clearance of rhododendron from half a dozen of Killarney’s most ecologically valuable woods, about 350 hectares in all. Earlier this year, a Kerry politician called for military action to stop the "aggressive" rhododendrons from "taking over" the beauty spot. The project work is based outdoors and a substantial amount of time might be spent walking through mountain and forest areas each day. Unless the systematic sweep system is maintained, Groundwork says, rhododendron will persistently return to cleared woods from dormant seeds, or from seeds blown or carried in from other areas, for decades after the first clearance. A spokesman for the Irish Coast Guard in Valentia said the tourists' orange tent was spotted from the air, but the aircraft could not reach them in the dense terrain. They had found that this could be done by checking each of these areas for seedlings, once every six to eight years, keeping ahead of the plant’s reproductive cycle. Frape D; Ward A, 1993. Only a rhododendron canopy would be a disaster.”. As fellow veteran Therese Higgins, author of the neglected NPWS rhododendron manual puts it, “The issue is not who does the work, or what method is used, but whether the work gets done, and whether the cleared areas stay clear. He has had little formal scientific training but has a well deserved reputation for determination and hard work. "Since 2011 the department has invested over €700,000 to tackle the rhododendron clearance in Killarney National Park and in 2016 alone the department spent €209,611 on clearance. Numerous other alien plants have become naturalized in the Killarney area, e.g. O’Toole is unquestionably a dedicated public servant. This has grown over the past 7 years to sales of nearly €500,000, employing 15 persons full time. This position contrasts starkly with the official NPWS response to the Groundwork EU complaint in 2014, where it was baldly stated that “no…reasonable ecological assessment of the situation could conclude that there is a reinfestation taking place in the park”. Biology and control of invasive plants Ruthin, Clwyd, UK; Richards, Moorhead & Laing Ltd, 62-63. They rarely back its staff, when they come under attack for attempting to enforce a raft of complex and frequently unpopular environmental laws. Rhododendron. Yet the new Killarney NPWS management refused to allow Groundwork to carry out these surveys. Is he to blame if he was given great responsibilities and authority, without the scientific training they surely require? I had found numerous rhododendron deep in these woods. Just Forests call on LIDI to stop selling rhododendron An ecological disaster is taking place in Killarney National Park - the first national park to be established in the State. At the end of the loop you leave this path and enter the Rhododendron Forest which at the time of writing is a little over grown and therefore can be difficult to navigate through. It is not the first time rescuers have been sent to the forest, which covers about a third of the 26,000 acres park. These are drawn from organisations including Voluntary Service International, and the local Mountain Meitheal and Men’s Sheds. This suggests that whatever steps were taken by the NPWS, they have not been effective. The effects of R. ponticum presence observed in woodlands in Killarney National Park have included: elimination of bryophytes, herbaceous plants and dwarf shrubs; prevention of tree and shrub regeneration; elimination of epiphytes and deleterious effects on animal life. Killarney National Park is on the brink of ecocide. Read about our approach to external linking. Introduction 2.1. They say these checks are vital to catch the fast-growing plants when they are already big enough to find easily but, crucially, before they start flowering: a single rhododendron flower can produce 7,000 seeds. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our. For example, it is now a widespread invasive species in Killarney, where >650 acres of the Killarney National Park are completely infested. So it may come as a shock to learn that the jewels in Killarney’s crown, the western woodlands, are now dying on their feet, and that the warnings from Groundwork, the volunteer organisation that pioneered their rescue in the 1980s, have been repeatedly ignored. The contention is about how it may be resolved. An ecological disaster is taking place in the first national park to be established in the State. Instead, it guided them to the shore of nearby Lough Leane. This involves making deep cuts in the stems and injecting the herbicide Roundup. But my interviews with the NPWS scientific staff show that the methods O’Toole is using, and which are incorporated in this plan, have still not been subjected to scientific testing. On the face of it, the method appears to be effective, and O’Toole is proud that his method avoids most collateral damage from the herbicide, and that he has greatly reduced the concentration used in each application. Or so it seemed. Far from being primitives, Groundwork was consistently led by qualified scientists, several of whom now occupy senior positions in Irish and international conservation organisations. On the contrary, the group is still spoken of by senior NPWS staff with admiration and respect, and the break-up is attributed to regrettable “differences over methodology”. They say it is a waste of public money, as the rhododendron is already making a comeback. It’s natural to wonder whether Groundwork had overstepped some boundary, or whether something untoward had come to light that forced the NPWS to distance the park from the group. You might have expected much better care of such invaluable natural landscapes, until you realise that there is no legislation guiding ecological standards or best practice in our national parks. And an exceptional volunteer resource, which had accumulated remarkable expertise, has been lost. Irish Wildlife Manuals, No. If An Garda was as under-resourced and under-supported as the NPWS, crime would be as rampant as environmental degradation is today. At the foot of these mountains nestle the world famous lakes of Killarney. But the byzantine NPWS structure determines that O’Keefe has no active input into rhododendron policy in the park. The rhododendron infestation and increased deer population across the … Second, while the commission did close the first complaint on this basis in 2016, Groundwork has brought a second complaint since, based on updated evidence of continuing reinfestation. This species known as Pacific or Western Rhododendron is only found in two other areas of British Columbia. But if there is a skeleton in Groundwork’s cupboard, nobody in the NPWS has ever produced it, nor did anyone I spoke to in the service attribute any misconduct to the group. One of the world’s oldest oak forests is slowly dying – because the rhododendron infestation and increased deer population across the region is annihilating native flora and preventing new native species from growing. The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the parent body of the NPWS, told The Irish Times that “upon consideration of the steps that the department has put in place the EU Commission decided not to pursue these complaints”. The terrain is steep and often very tough. The pair were taken on board a Kerry Water Rescue vessel at about 15:40 local time, more than two and a half hours after they first called for help. On the contrary, they often undermine them for political advantage. Rhododendron ponticum is a major problem now in the national park in Killarney and €200,000 was spent by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in Killarney … Arguably he does not need a scientific background, but the methods of fighting this species – and ensuring the health and future of one of Ireland’s finest forests – must be the best that science can offer, and must be monitored by scientists. Rhododendron Rhododendron is a large evergreen shrub (growing up to 8m tall) that was introduced to Ireland as an ornamental plant in the 18th Century from Asia and north-west China.