Wooden boardwalk was built in 2015 and has seen a 2,000% increase in visitors on County Fermanagh mountain, to prevent erosion of the environmentally important bog the “Stairway to Heaven” was erected on Cuilcagh Mountain. Visitors number have abnormally multiplied over the years, 3,000 a year prior to opening to 70,000 in 2017.
An official report has said the increased popularity has “threatened to damage the peatland the walkway was built to protect”. Cuilcagh is the second largest expanse of intact blanket bog in Northern Ireland and is a protected site. New laws will soon come into place to preserve the site, limiting access to groups constituting more than 20. The same will require a written permission.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) emphasize on the value of peatlands for recreation, as a source of drinking water and for carbon sequestration. The statistics show that in UK, walkers spent 179m hours on bog, spending £273m. The reports also said more research is needed to establish the true value of recreational purposes.
The ONS report suggested the bill for restoring the UK’s peatlands could be £21bn over the next century when weighed in the benefits it promises in the long run, this could be miniscule.
Peatlands cover about 12% of the total UK land area and inn Northern Ireland, there are about 250,000 hectares but only one fifth of it is estimated to be in good condition. Peatlands are an important carbon sink, though damaged ones can emit large amounts of it. Peat extraction for horticulture and drainage linked to farming are cited as the main impacts.
55% of peatland will be restored to an ideal status by 2050, also a great source of consumable water. The Committee on Climate Change has set the task and will see it through completion.