Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Monday 19 February 2018

Queueing up to save beauty of the Burren

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Farmers across the Burren are clamouring for the opportunity to get involved in an award-winning environmental project that protects their local farming landscape.

Recognised as one of the best nature conservation programmes in the European Union, the Burren Farming for Conservation Programme (BFCP) could quadruple in size in the next Rural Development Plan, if additional funding gets the green light.

The current programme, which ends this year, has seen 160 farmers manage over 14,500ha of the unique Burren landscape. Since 2010, these farmers have removed 147ha of invasive scrub, maintained 84km of paths and repaired more than 56km of traditional stone walls.

The farmers have also installed 444 gates, 300 water troughs, 148 feed troughs and 83 feed bins in a concerted effort to protect the watercourses, natural springs and flora and fauna of the Burren landscape.

The work has been financed by CAP Pillar 1 funding, through the Department of Agriculture and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

The average payment per farmer last year was €7,530 or €78/ha, with farmers themselves co-financing projects at €24/ha.

habitat

Payments are completely output-based, meaning that the more a farmer does to protect the Burren habitat, the higher his payment will be.

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Payment depends entirely on productivity and the quality of the work done. Programme manager Brendan Dunford is hoping to expand the award-winning project.

"Under the new Rural Development Plan, we want to roll out the project to the entire Burren region, which would take in 30,000ha," he explains.

"There is huge demand from farmers, with up to 800 Burren farmers interested in taking part."

However, he adds the project has also generated interest from farmers in other high nature value areas in Kerry, Connemara, Wicklow and the Aran Islands.

A full Burren roll-out of the BFCP would take in 30,000ha and cater for 650 farmers, at a cost of €4.5m per year, not including administration costs.

For more information, go to www.burrenlife.com.

Irish Independent