A number of areas in County Kilkenny have been identified as being of exceptional importance for wildlife at a national or international level. These areas, or habitats, are protected through national and European legislation. In addition, certain plant, animal and bird species found in the county are considered rare or vulnerable and are also protected by legislation.
Protected Areas of National and International Importance
Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas are designated to conserve habitats and species of European importance pursuant to the EU Habitats and Birds Directives; these form part of a European network known as Natura 2000.
Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) are designated to conserve habitats and species Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are designated to protect birds which are rare, in danger of extinction or vulnerable to changes in habitat.
Natural Heritage Areas (NHAs) are designated to conserve species and habitats of national importance under the Wildlife (Amendment) Act, 2000. There are also a small number of Statutory Nature Reserves and Wildfowl Sanctuaries in County Kilkenny, established under the Wildlife Acts 1976 and 2000; these are areas where nature conservation is the primary objective and takes precedence over all other activities.
The designation of SACs, SPAs and NHAs is the responsibility of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) division of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Up-to-date information regarding these sites is provided on the NPWS website http://www.npws.ie/
The Kilkenny County Development Plan 2014-2020 sets out information about protected areas and policies for their protection – click here to view this information, a list and map of the protected natural heritage areas of international and national importance in County Kilkenny.