Management plans and conservation objectives for designated land must be taken into account when agri-environmental CAP schemes are being drawn up, an EU report has said.

The report, Management effectiveness in the EU’s Natura 2000 network of protected areas by the European Environment Agency, looked at Natura 2000 land in five member states, including Ireland.

It found that management of designated land was carried out with individual farmers and that there was no assessment or evaluation of this management. The monitoring of designated lands was dependent on “irregular inspections” by national authorities.

As a result of this, it found “ownership among farmers of the conservation outcomes are relatively low, while the administrative burden is relatively high.”

Natura 2000

Natura 2000 land is made up of Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Areas (SPA). It is estimated that 35,000 Irish farmers have designated land and they are restricted with what they can do with that land. Farmers may need to seek permission from the Department of Heritage to spread fertiliser, slurry and to put up fences.

The report looked at results-based pilot projects and found that these types of schemes have resulted in “more positive outcomes. It is too early to say to what extent this model will be further scaled up under the future Irish CAP strategic plan, but given the positive results this seems likely.”

Areas of Natural Constraint

On the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) scheme, the report said that while the scheme does not have environmental objectives, it is indirectly providing some benefits to biodiversity.

“Although this measure does not have environment objectives, or additional environmental conditions, it is likely to help maintain agricultural systems and practices that are at risk of abandonment, and thereby indirectly provides some benefits for biodiversity.

“However, its actual biodiversity impacts are unknown,” it found.

The report also found that Irish “authorities still face a challenge to encourage more intensive farms in lowlands to take up actions for biodiversity”.


The report’s authors recommended the “biodiversity-proofing” of strategies and investment by public authorities at all levels, to prevent incentives that contradict Natura 2000 objectives.

Biodiversity proofing should extend to the intensification of agriculture and forestry, and unsustainable renewable energy development, it said.

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