A new results-based scheme will target farmers in Galway, Mayo and Donegal next year, aimed at conserving machair lands.

The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage has been awarded EU funding of €7.4m for the project.

Machair is comprised of a sandy coastal plain of land and is found in areas such as Achill and Belmullet in Mayo.

Machair and fixed dune habitats in northwest Ireland are in unfavourable conservation status, according to the most recent national conservation assessments. They are Natura 2000 designated lands.

The project will focus on improving the conservation status of machair systems inside the Natura 2000 network, at project sites in Galway, Mayo and Donegal.

Changes in condition

It will take place within nine special areas of conservation (SACs) and four special protected areas (SPAs) on lands which are predominantly privately owned.

Changes in the conditions of habitats and the ecological conditions for the machair land and associated pollinators and waders will be captured through results-based management agreements with landowners, as well as through monitoring programmes.

The project is due to begin in February 2022 and will last until January 2028.

A full-time project manager is currently being sought to manage the scheme.