MICHAEL Keegan, the farm manager of Luggala Estate, has been nominated for a Farming for Nature award.
The national Farming for Nature initiative acknowledges farmers working to enhance the natural health of our countryside.
Michael, who is also a member of the Wicklow Council, is currently implementing an extensive environmental management plan throughout the whole 5,000 acre estate, which includes a mix of upland blanket bog, dry heath, acid grassland, meadows, mixed woodlands some of which are native and some conifer plantations. There are also two large lakes and two rivers running through the land.
Actions to date include heather cutting to benefit red grouse and other species, treatment of the invasive Rhododendron plants in the woodland, bruising and treatment of bracken, repair and restoration of the traditional drystone walls on the estate, management of deer population including the culling of unhealthy animals, tagging and recording of raptors in conjunction with the NPWS, gathering seeds from native trees and shrubs on the estate for propagation and woodland restoration and gully planting with native trees and shrubs.
“This is likely the largest privately owned restoration project in the country,” said Michael. "In terms of reforestation, we are targeting areas of the estate where there would have been woodland previously and we are replanting in those areas. The idea being to join the areas of woodland creating wildlife corridors throughout the estate."
Future plans include the incorporation of cattle to the land as a means of conservation grazing, re-wetting of blanket bog areas, additional planting of native trees and conversion of plantations to broadleaves.
Michael was nominated by Mountaineering Ireland to highlight how uplands habitats can be brought into better condition and the lessons learnt from Luggala could inform better upland management in other areas.
In nominating Michael, Mountaineering Ireland stated: “Michael and the team are transforming Luggala, but Michael’s own attitudes to upland farming have also been transformed over the past two years, resulting in changes to Michael’s farming practices on his home farm as well as at Luggala.
“It is our belief that Michael has the affability, conviction, and communication skills to be a powerful ambassador for upland habitat restoration.
“Michael is a young farmer, and an active IFA member, he is currently Chair of the Enniskerry IFA branch and a past vice-Chair of Wicklow IFA. These connections place Michael in a position to influence the wider farming community. Along with his colleagues, Michael is facilitating responsible and sustainable recreation in tandem with his upland management work. He has shown that he can be instrumental in building understanding of upland management amongst recreational users, school groups and the wider community.”
Visit https://www.farmingfornature.ie/ in order to cast your vote.