A history of geoconservation in the Republic of Ireland
Geoconservation in the Republic of Ireland has had only a short history and very few champions within the geoscience community or from the wider population. An early start came with a listing of Areas of Scientific Interest (ASIs) by An Foras Forbartha in 1981. A successful legal challenge to this scheme required a back-to-the-drawing-board approach but the exclusion of geological heritage from subsequent nature conservation assessment was a major setback. Only persistent effort from within the Geological Survey of Ireland has allowed a belated integration of geoconservation into the work of other state agents over the last eight years, through the Irish Geological Heritage Programme. Today, a twin track approach operates with statutory Natural Heritage Areas and non-statutory County Geological Sites. There are broad parallels to UK geoconservation strategies, but having also amalgamated much best practice from European and other countries, through involvement with ProGEO. The existing geoconservation programme is very modest through lack of human resources; it has evolved rapidly to exploit the available opportunities, especially in conjunction with local authorities. It has worked to keep geoconservation in the public consciousness in parallel with the work through official channels.