Return to Nature

Published on November 7, 2023

Recently, the Irish Bishops’ Conference agreed that parishes would return 30% of church grounds to nature by 2030. It is hoped that the new initiative ‘Return to Nature’ will go a long way in achieving this objective and to ‘live out our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork’. The initiative will also help address the ‘biodiversity emergency’ which was declared by Dáil Eireann in May 2019. The most recent EU Habitats Directive Article 17 Conservation Status Assessment Report (2019) for Ireland (coordinated and prepared by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS)) found that 85% of habitats, and 30% of species (listed on the annexes of the EU Habitats Directive) were assessed as having an ‘unfavourable conservation status’. Habitat loss has been identified as one of the main pressures affecting biodiversity.

The ‘Return to Nature’ initiative aims to manage 30% of church grounds for biodiversity which will comprise a range of measures such as providing a haven for pollinators to link in with the ‘All Ireland Pollinator Plan’, installing bird nest boxes and bat roost boxes; planting mini-orchards comprising native Irish tree species, native tree planting, eradicating invasive species, reducing pesticide use and chemicals. The initiative will involve reimagining how we have managed our church grounds in the past and how we can manage our grounds to benefit biodiversity going forward into the future. We are trialling a pilot scheme in County Clare initially; and are seeking the assistance of ten parishes in Clare who would be willing to cooperate and take part in the ’Return to Nature’ initiative. The parishes will work closely with the local community in partnership with the Laudato Si’ Working Group of the Irish Bishop’s Conference, Clare County Council’s Biodiversity Office and the National Biodiversity Data Centre. Actions for nature will also go towards achieving actions under the Clare Biodiversity Action Plan.’

We need some energetic people to drive this project in the parish. If you have any interest or expertise in this area and would like to help, please contact Fr John.