The case study for Ireland focuses on the peripheral western region which encompasses the seven counties Donegal, Leitrim, Sligo, Mayo, Roscommon, Galway and Clare. This region is predominantly rural compared to the national average of people living in rural locations.

Peripheral western coast. Photo: Orlagh Reynolds

The significant number of people living in rural areas in the western region suggests the importance of land for livelihoods, and there is more of a dependence on traditional indigenous industry sectors such as agriculture and tourism in this region. Our research explored what the different land use activities are, how they might conflict with each other, and the role of local knowledge in sustainable land use management.


The case study research in Ireland focused on three areas in the peripheral west: the Burren, the Ox mountains and the Aran Islands. These three areas were selected as they represent regions designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) under Natura 2000, but different stages of development on inclusive and sustainable land conservation processes. Each case provided examples of how land use in SAC areas is sustainably managed in the region, and the role of local knowledge in decision-making on land use.

Burren. Photo: Orlagh Reynolds

The case study partners interviewed diverse type of land use stakeholders in these regions such as farmers, tourism providers, recreation providers, conservationists, archaeologists and researcher organisations. Each provided interesting insight on land use decision-making, conflicts and local knowledge in this region. Responses were also collected using map-based questionnaire where participants marked significant areas of land use on a map in the region.

The findings showed that indeed a number of common conflicts exist between different land use modes across the peripheral west of Ireland. Examples are conflict between traditional and modern farming types, between EU designations and local practices, and between economic development and preservation of archaeology. Such conflicts cause difficulty for those involved in land use management. Furthermore, the local knowledge on what these conflicts are and how they can be addressed is not included in land use management decision- making. We found that understanding and embracing tensions is necessary to develop solutions for inclusive decision making and ignoring tensions does not work. Inclusive decision making could lead to buy-in from diverse knowledge holders making land use practices more sustainable.


Text: Orlagh Reynolds

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