Plans have been announced for a new a European Innovation Partnership (EIP) to protect breeding waders, with €25m in funding open to proposals which would help conserve the vulnerable species.

The funding call will see grants awarded to groups that successfully propose ways of scaling up conservation efforts for breeding waders.

The project seeks to involve groups of farmers, farm advisers and researchers in conservation efforts, with the funding call to close to applications at 5pm on 23 January 2024.

A further €5m has been allocated to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to roll out strategic conservation measures, such as nest protection fences.

The funding allocations come as the overall numbers of curlew, dunlin, lapwing and golden plover have declined by as much as 98% in recent decades.

Some conservation works, such as those employed in the curlew conservation programme, have recently witnessed positive results, but the overall abundance of vulnerable wader species continues to fall.

Reversing decline

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Pippa Hackett welcomed the funding as part of the solution to falling wader numbers.

“Lapwing, redshank, curlew and snipe would have been a familiar sight in many parts of the countryside in the past, but are now reduced to very small and, in some cases, critical numbers,” she said.

“Today’s announcement will play a significant role in helping reverse those trends.”

Co-operating with farmers and getting buy-in from locals is key to seeing conservation measures working on the ground, Minister Hackett added.

“We have used the EIP model over the past number of years to help bring farmers and other stakeholders together in local and regional groups, backed up with the financial and administrative support they need, and I am delighted we can now bring forward an EIP of this scale to help save some of our most endangered birds.

“Now is the time to reinforce those partnerships and to support our breeding waders - before it’s too late.”

Working with farmers

Collaboration between the Department of Agriculture and the NPWS has been shown to work successfully for the roll-out of environmental conservation measures, according to Minister of State at the Department of Housing Malcolm Noonan.

Minister Noonan mentioned the curlew conservation programme as an example of where this has been shown.

“Building on these efforts and expertise, this EIP will provide a conservation framework for the conservation of these special birds, including curlew, lapwing, dunlin, redshank, snipe and golden plover,” he added.

“It is a great opportunity to provide positive synergies and collaboration across programmes at local and national level for these threatened species.”

The breeding waders project will be the first EIP implemented under the 2023-2027 CAP strategic plan.

The funding allocation has it set to be among the largest EIPs ever funded.

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