independent

Friday 31 October 2014

Bid to allow farmers develop hen harrier land

MARIA HERLIHY

Published 12/07/2014 | 12:00

FARMERS whose land in North Cork have been classified as special areas of protection for the hen harrier may finally get to plant trees on their land.

A proposal by junior Agricultural minister Tom Hayes will be brought to Europe for the reintroduction of afforetation in the six hen harirer special protection zones.

Since the suspension of the hen harrier compensation scheme in April 2010 it has, in effect, prevented farmers from planting or improving their land because of the designated tag for the hen harrier.

Deirdre O'Shea, acting executive, IFA, Nation Farm Forestry Committee said if farmers whose land is in the designated zone could plant their land its value would rise to between €4,000 and €6,000 per acre.

She said with 168,000 hectares nationally designated a special areas of protection for the hen harrier it affects 4,000 land owners. "Of these only 366 farmers were accepted into the hen harrier compensation scheme before it was prematurely suspended in 2010. Currently, there are thousands of farmers in designated areas who are receiving no compensation and their land is effectively sterilised," she said.

IFA Farm Forestry chairman Michael Fleming has also welcomed Minister Hayes' commitment to bring the proposal to Europe for the reintroduction of afforestation.

"The option to plant this land would provide some kind of financial security for these farmers. It would also give farmers the option to sell the land. Currently, farmers cannot even get a bid on this land as it will not generate guaranteed income and is viewed as being worthless," said Mr Fleming.

He also said that designated lands have caused serious financial hardship for farmers and will continue to do so until the National Parks and Wildlife Services remove the designation or adequately compensate the landowners.

Until now, no 'ownership' of this issue was shown by either the Dept of Agriculture, Food and the Marine or the Dept of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, outlined Mr Fleming.

"Farmers were referred from one department to the other with no one accepting responsibility or offering solutions. Therefore, this first step taken by Minister Hayes is greatly welcomed by our members and it is vital that this proposal by the government provides a favourable outcome for farmers in hen harrier designated areas," said Mr Fleming.

Corkman

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