The Department of Agriculture is soon to announce details of a €35 million Hen Harrier Conservation Scheme intended to protect the endangered bird of prey with the announcement of the appointment of consultants that will lead the project.
With a population of between just 108 and 157 breeding pairs still surviving, the rare species are regarded as a valuable barometer when gauging the health of our countryside. The forthcoming Hen Harrier Scheme, and Freshwater Pearl Mussel Scheme, are part of a new ‘locally-led’ initiative to encourage the involvement of the local community and farmers in the design of the schemes, as well as researches, ecologists, NGOs, government departments and other agencies.
The EIP locally led model will encourage a bottom-up design of the schemes by means of:
- An array of stakeholders which include farmers, advisors, administrators, researchers, ecologists, NGOs, government departments and agencies;
- Bespoke locally-tailored solutions to problems;
- Strong focus on networking and collaboration to achieve objectives;
- Dissemination and cross-learning of sustainable best practices;
- Harnessing community involvement, ownership and goodwill in order to achieve mutual benefits and RDP objectives.
Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed recently spoke at the ICSA AGM, and states he was “acutely aware” of the importance of the scheme and he urged farm organisations to get involved in the design process. “We hope the scheme will open in 2017 so that would mean payments realistically would be in 2018,” he said. The Minister went on to state that once a consultant is appointed to lead the project, he would like to see the farm organisations who have an interest in this area, work with the consultants so that the scheme has the appropriate input and ownership from landowners themselves who will know what will work and won’t work in their areas.
The harrier project is targeted at areas which contain about 45pc of the national hen harrier population, which is expected to be the six Special Protection Areas (SPAs) specifically designated for Hen Harrier, and Mr Creed hopes to involve 2,000 participants in these areas.