€35m Hen Harrier scheme in the pipeline
A consultant for the highly anticipated hen harrier conservation scheme will be appointed soon, the Minister for Agriculture has revealed.
The successful consultant will draw up the terms and conditions for the new €35m scheme to protect the endangered bird of prey, popularly referred to as "sky dancers" for their elaborate aerial displays.
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 researchers, ecologists, NGOs, government departments and other agencies.
Speaking at the ICSA AGM, Minister Michael Creed, said he is "acutely aware" of the importance of the scheme and he urged farm organisations to get involved in the design process. "We're gone out to tender on a consultant to design a locally-led scheme for the hen harrier so we will have a consultant appointed relatively soon. We hope the scheme will open in 2017 so that would mean payments realistically would be in 2018," he said.
"What we would like to see happening is that once a consultant is appointed that the farm organisations who have an interest in this area, and some have more than others, that they would 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, and Mr Creed hopes to involve 2,000 participants in these areas.