A “shovel ready” project seeking to enhance native woodland in western counties could see restoration measures put in place across 4,000ac in two years if funding continues to flow to the charity operating the programme.
Farmer interest in the project has been strong, as 2,000ac of owned land will become a hub for spreading biodiversity to neighbouring lands, the charity Hometree told the Irish Farmers Journal.
Hometree’s Wild Atlantic Rainforest project estimates that its plans to own 2,000ac of woodland habitat and co-operate with farmers and landowners to restore another 2,000ac will cost €12m.
It will seek funds from the State, the private sector and public donations to roll out its nature plan.
“Interest from farmers and landowners has been huge in the project. They are curious to see what the project is about. There will be a knock-on effect to neighbouring farms and that is what we are trying to do,” Hometree CEO Matt Smith told the Irish Farmers Journal.
The project is close to beginning work on the first of the sites it will own. The team stated that consultation with the local community was key to ensuring its plans run smoothly.
“We have sale agreed contracts signed on the first site, which is 280ac in Connemara,” said Smith.
“We will be there this spring, fencing, working with the neighbours, planting some trees where it is possible. We really are shovel ready to deliver this in two years if we have the funding.”
Project manager Ray O’Foghlu explained that allowing largely untouched native forestry to expand from margins will be central to the project.
Some trees may also be planted and peatlands rewet to restore habitats.
“These little nuggets of ancient woodland exist. They are hemmed into steep, steep valleys where we couldn’t cultivate, we just couldn’t really farm them if the woods persisted,” O’Foghlu said.
“Part of our project is allowing these to recolonise the landscape. We may plant some trees where there is an ecological rationale, but, for the most part, we are just going to facilitate these pockets growing.
“The core of the concept is we buy a piece of land and that becomes a hub from which we can work with our neighbours to spread our impact in the area.”