Launch of a €20 million project to restore blanket bogs along the west coast
The €20.6 million LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature project, aimed at restoring blanket bogs, was officially launched today (Friday 13 May) in Ballycroy, Co. Mayo.
Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan and Minister of State for Land Use Planning and Biodiversity Pippa Hackett officially launched the project.
LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature is a large-scale project primarily aimed at providing environmental and social benefits through the conservation and restoration of blanket bogs in the North West of Ireland, in close collaboration with the local community.
The project has 35 sites covering a total of over 250,000ha along the west coast from South Galway to North Donegal.
The project is coordinated by the Ministry of Housing, Local Authorities and Heritage.
Nine other associated beneficiaries are involved in the project, including:
- Department of Agriculture, Food and the Sea (DAFM);
- Edge na Mona;
- Fáilte Ireland;
- The Heritage Council;
- North and West Regional Assembly;
- University of Santiago de Compostela.
Speaking at the launch, Minister Noonan said: “I can think of no better way to kick off National Biodiversity Week than with a major €20 million peatland restoration project in collaboration with farmers. and communities in the North West of Ireland.
“This innovative project places people and the ecological health of the landscapes in which they live and work at the heart of its efforts.
“I believe that collaborative approaches like this are the best ways to have a real impact on nature.
“Protecting our blanket bog habitats is vitally important as we strive to address our biodiversity and climate crises, and I am confident that this project will bring many benefits to the region – social, environmental and economic,” added Minister Noonan.
Expand the project beyond blanket bogs
LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature has launched a pilot Results-Based Agri-Environmental Payment (RBPS) program in the Owenduff/Nephin SAC complex for 2021, and will expand to Donegal, Sligo and other parts of Mayo in 2022.
The RBPS establishes a direct link between farmers’ payments and the environmental quality of the farm.
This approach incentivizes and rewards the restoration and conservation of high quality habitats and puts farmers and their skills, expertise and knowledge of their land at the heart of the initiative’s development.
The results of this pilot project should inform future results-oriented actions to be integrated into the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Agri-Environment, Climate Measures (AECM) from 2023.
More than 150 County Mayo farmers participated in the pilot agri-environment initiative in 2021 and received total payments of over €500,000.
The pilot project will be extended to other project areas in 2022, with more than 800 farmers expected to benefit from the program.
Minister Hackett highlighted the importance of the work already done by LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature in developing agri-environmental measures: “LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature is a fantastic project driven by the local community and delivering results for nature and biodiversity.
“The outcome-based element is very important because it helps farmers to really engage and supply their local ecosystem.”
A key element of the project activities is the integration of various policies with practical land use. Project leader Dr Derek McLoughlin sees this consistency as a crucial driver of ecological restoration.
“This project aims to implement government policies related to nature, agriculture and climate in a way that works for the local community,” he said.
“Ultimately, we depend on landowners to manage the land to provide the goods and services the public wants and needs.
“We depend on the existing knowledge and experience of landowners and land managers. Therefore, we need to ensure consistent land use messaging and have the right policy in place to achieve good environmental outcomes in a way that can support farmers’ livelihoods.