County Fermanagh, as its proud residents and delighted visitors know, is a region of extraordinary beauty with unique landscapes and unrivalled habitats for rare species of wildlife and plants. This link takes you to the Northern Ireland Environment Agency’s list of Areas of Special Scientific Interest in the county, many of them in West Fermanagh, in or close to the area where shale gas extraction is planned.
The photograph on the left shows Lough Melvin, about which the Agency writes:
“Lough Melvin is a large mesotrophic lough of high scientific interest for its flora and fauna.The ASSI includes the open waters of the lough in addition to a range of associated wetland and terrestrial communities.
Habitats include swamp communities, boulder and rock shore, fen, woodland and species-rich grassland. This wide range of habitats is reflected in the diversity of plant and animal communities present.
Plants with a restricted distribution in the British isles include lesser meadow-rue, chaffweed, fragrant agrimony, upland enchanter’s-nightshade, northern bedstraw, slender-leaved pondweed and water lobelia.
Blue-eyed-grass and globeflower are of particular note and occur on Schedule 8 of the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985.
The waters of the lough are unpolluted and in a relatively pristine state and support a unique salmonid fish community which dates back to the end of the last Ice Age. Three distinct sub-species of trout are found in Lough Melvin : sonaghen, gillaroo and ferox; providing one of the few examples of a once widespread situation of sympatric populations.
There are also stocks of the rare Atlantic salmon which is listed in Annex II of the EC Habitats and Species Directive and the Arctic charr, an Irish Red Data species.”