News 2013

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD, photographed at Néifinn Fhiáin in North Co. Mayo.
Title: Ireland's first wilderness project launched
System Date: 14/03/2013
Over 11,000 hectares in the Nephin Beg Range of  North West Mayo have been designated as Ireland’s first wilderness area following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Coillte and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. 
The memorandum commits both parties to working together to deliver the wilderness project, which includes forest lands and parts of the Ballycroy National Park. 
The ambitious and innovative project, the first of its kind in Western Europe, will deliver a dedicated wilderness of forest, mountain, bog, river and lakes in the Nephin Beg Range.  The project will involve Coillte taking 4,400 hectares out of their commercial forest operation and rewilding this land, improving habitat and landscape quality over a 15 year period. The eventual intention is protecting a landscape of scale with functioning ecosystems while providing an authentic ‘wilderness experience’ for those that visit.
Minister Jimmy Deenihan TD welcomed the signing of the memorandum, commenting:
“Wild Nephin is an ambitious project that is setting aside a significant parcel of land for the creation of a unique wilderness landscape. The project will complement Ballycroy National Park, which borders the Coillte lands, which is in itself a significant attraction of national importance comprising 11,000 hectares of blanket bog, mountainous terrain and unspoilt natural beauty." 
As well as providing completely unique recreational opportunities where challenge, solitude and remoteness are the hallmark, the project also aims to increase nature conservation bio diversity values, protect a large landscape from human artefacts while facilitating research and enhancing the status of natural ecosystems through a process of non-intervention.
Coillte CEO David Gunning said: “The Memorandum will see us working with our partners the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to deliver a free-willed landscape here in North County Mayo. Coillte has considerable competencies in habitat restoration and managing recreation and this project forms part of our core purpose of enriching lives locally nationally and globally through the innovative and sustainable management of natural resources.   We would very much like to thank Minister Deenihan, as his support was crucial in getting this project to where it is today and the Taoiseach for his commitment to this wonderful project in his home county." 
Bill Murphy, Wild Nephin Project Manager said “This is an important day not only for Ireland but also for Europe as this agreement is a key step along the way towards the goal of setting aside 1,000,000 ha of wilderness in Europe by 2020. Ireland is in the forefront of looking at modified landscapes, the challenges or rewilding and how these can contribute to wilderness in Europe”.

To celebrate the unique designation and to advance the concept of wilderness in Europe, Coillte and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, supported by Mayo County Council, are hosting a conference in Mayo with the theme – Wilderness in a Modified European Landscape. The conference, taking place in May, will bring together thought leaders in the field of wilderness management and land restoration from across the globe to participate in the discussion.
For further information log on to or
Pictured above: An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD, photographed at Néifinn Fhiáin in North Co. Mayo with from Left to Right Mr. Jimmy Deenihan, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Dennis Strong National Parks & wildlife Services, and Bill Murphy, Head of Recreation Coillte to mark the  signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Coillte and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht that designates 11,000 HA along the Nephin Mountain Range as Ireland’s first wilderness area.