Nature Conservation Designation

Biodiversity and nature conservation are an integral part of forest management and we manage statutory designated sites in association with partners, through specific management plans and monitoring systems.

There are a number of areas on Coillte land which have been designated for Nature Conservation.  The table below provides information on the extent and type of these areas.

Nature Conservation Designations on Coillte Land (see Notes Below)



National Area (ha)

1,091,000* 475,000* 62,252** 844,834**
Total area of Coillte estate falling within designated areas
Area (ha)
19,104 74,658 3,968 17,833
Total area of Coillte estate falling within designated areas, expressed as a % of the total Coillte estate 4.3% 16.7% 0.9% 4%
Total area of Coillte estate falling within designated areas, expressed as % of National Area Designated 1.8% 15.7% 6.4% 2.1%

* = data obtained from NPWS
** = data obtained from Coillte GIS

The columns are explained as follows:
"Designation": These are the legal terms applied to areas protected for nature conservation.
SACs = Special Areas of Conservation (EU Habitats Directive)
SPAs = Special Protection Areas (EU Birds Directive)
NHAs = Natural Heritage Areas (Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000)
pNHAs = proposed Natural Heritage Areas (Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000)
"National Area": This refers to the total area designated in Ireland.

Notes on the Table: Nature Conservation Designations on Coillte Land

  • These figures indicate the extent on the Coillte estate of areas that have been designated or proposed for designation by NPWS as areas of particular nature conservation value.
  • These designations are made either under EU legislation (i.e. SACs – Habitats Directive; SPAs – Birds Directive) or under national legislation (NHAs – Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000).
  • "Total" figures are not supplied because there is much overlap between the designations.
  • Protection of habitats and species in these designated areas operates mainly through consultation with NPWS (National Parks and Wildlife Service), which is carried out at several stages throughout the forest planning process, and is often carried out through the Forest Service, as part of a statutory consultation process. However, in many instances, Coillte has taken a proactive approach to habitat conservation that goes beyond following the recommendations. The chief examples of this are Coillte’s LIFE projects (see text above).

The "Area" statistics presented suggest the following:

  • SACs: Coillte’s biodiversity surveys have revealed that Coillte indeed does have a role in protecting highly valuable SAC habitats. Even though Coillte land accounts for only 1.8% of the national area covered by SACs, Coillte’s work in special habitat restoration has made an impact on national efforts to conserve rare and valuable SAC habitats.
  • SPAs: Coillte has a major role to play in conservation of SPAs The large area of Coillte land that falls within SPAs is accounted for mostly by the large area of upland SPAs designated for hen harrier, which tend to include large areas of upland conifer forest. In these uplands, hen harrier habitat is provided as a result of forest management in the context of good forest design at landscape level. Most of this SPA area is not included in our biodiversity 15%, which includes areas that require special nature conservation measures.
  • NHAs: There are about 150 designated NHAs in Ireland, and all of these are designated for their blanket bog or raised bog habitats. Coillte-owned portions of NHAs, while very small in the context of the Coillte estate, account for a significant proportion (6.4%) of the complement of nationally-important bogs. In consultation with NPWS, conifer plantations are being removed from these bogs, in a move towards restoring open bog habitat. Specific restoration work on the NHAs is not as advanced as on Coillte’s SAC-designated bogs.
  • pNHAs: Protection of habitats in these areas, proposed for designation under national legislation, operates through consultation with NPWS during preparation of felling plans.

Supporting National Biodiversity Programmes

Red Kite Re-introduction Project

The Wicklow Red Kite Project is a partnership between the Golden Eagle Trust, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Department of the Environment, Heritage, and Local Government (DOEHLG)and the Welsh Kite Trust.  It is funded by grants from DOEHLG, the Heritage Council and is also supported by Coillte.  Coillte sites are home to a number of the nests and also to a release station. 

The red kite once flourished in Ireland but became extinct in the 18th century due to persecution, poisoning and woodland clearance. In 2007, a project began to reintroduce the bird and, so far, 81 red kites have been imported from Wales and released in Co Wicklow. A similar project is under way in Northern Ireland.

The red kite, so called because of its reddish-brown body and tail, has a wingspan of up to 1.8 metres. The bird nests in trees and often lines its nests with scraps of cloth and paper. Their prey includes small mammals, crows, pigeons, insects and worms.  Red Kites are the nearest birds to vultures in these islands. 

Five chicks have been confirmed in two nests in County Wicklow, according to scientists with the Golden Eagle Trust Red Kite Project. The exact location of the nests is not being disclosed in order to minimise threats to the birds.