Social Complexities and Specially Protected Areas: rural conservation and livelihood in southwest Ireland

Authors: Jodie Asselin*, University of Lethbridge
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: Ethnography, Ireland, Political Ecology, Multi land use
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 2:40 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Bayside B, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The hen harrier has become a topic of controversy in Ireland over the last decade. Its status has become symbolic of wider discord as efforts to conserve the bird's natural habitat and (so far unsuccessfully) increase its numbers are enmeshed within multi-land use struggles and competing political priorities. This paper unravels historic and contemporary social and environmental complexities that are current features of Ireland’s hen harrier and specially protected area (SAP) dispute. While tensions surrounding the bird’s conservation efforts have been framed in terms of economic constraints for farmers, an ongoing collaborative project between local civic actors and scientists, and an ethnographic researcher is opening up the dispute to a wider context and hybrid geographies. This includes extending the time frame of the issue to include longer term human-environment interactions, questioning the nature/culture divide inherent in hen harrier conservation policy, exploring local knowledge as asserted by farmers, and mapping the complex bureaucratic networks which locals and non-profits must navigate in order to likewise navigate the physical landscape. While an ongoing project, this piece breaks down the wider context which is currently being used to critically examine the scientific methods and processes that are part of this conservation issue and which local actors are being asked to employ.

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