Natural Heritage Area
Natural Heritage Area is a conservation designation denoting a protected area in Ireland. The Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000 makes legal provision for the designation and protection of a national network of Natural Heritage Areas (NHAs).
The designation is currently used by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to protect wildlife habitats, such as raised bogs. 75 raised bogs were designated for protection in 2004 under the Wildlife Act. In 2014 the government proposed the de-designation of a number of Natural Heritage Areas to allow turf-cutting.
It is also intended that the designation be used to protect sites of geological and geomorphological interest. The Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) provides scientific appraisal and interpretative advice on such sites, while the NPWS have the responsibility of designation and management.
In identifying important sites that are capable of being conserved as NHAs, the GSI groups them by geological themes. Karst (i.e. exposed limestone) was chosen as the first geological theme because of its vulnerability and the ever-mounting threats. By 2012 the GSI had completed its list of karst and early fossil sites, but the time frame for designation by NPWS is unknown.