Farmer payments in the LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature project averaged €3,100 last year

The project, coordinated by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), paid out over €2.4m in payments to its 820 farmer participants in 2022.

Wild Atlantic Nature pays farmers for the results-based restoration of blanket bog in Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) in the northwest.

Some farmers drew down in excess of €10,000 but others only claimed €800 through the scheme.

Land was scored using digitised scorecards, with the environmental quality of the habitat determining how many farmers could get paid.

If land scores poorly on scoring, a participating farmer can apply for funding to carry out actions including the control of invasive species, fencing and managing drains.

The results of the pilot have fed into results-based schemes in the new CAP.

Farmers at the heart

Minister of State Malcolm Noonan said the blanket bog project shows the environmental results that can be got by placing farmers at the centre of restoration efforts.

“In the space of two years the LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature project has shown what can be achieved by placing the landowner at the heart of our blanket bog conservation activities,” Noonan commented.

“It’s really encouraging to see such strong engagement among landowners in this pilot scheme and, crucially, that we now know that incentivisation schemes such as this can deliver real enthusiasm and in turn positive results for nature.”

Ongoing support

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Pippa Hackett said that farmers are supported through their farm advisers to improve biodiversity and water quality on their land.

“The numbers participating in this scheme shows the strength of interest and support from the farming community in getting behind environmental initiatives,” Minister Hackett stated.

“Ongoing support is made available to participants to make improvements to their land, working with an adviser to achieve better outcomes for water quality and biodiversity.

“I look forward to seeing the scheme go from strength to strength as LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature activity throughout the northwest ramps up.”

Appropriate policy

Project manager Dr Derek McLoughlin emphasised the need for clear messaging to guide landowners in managing their land, as well as the need to take farmers along when implementing climate policy.

“This project aims to implement government policies related to nature, agriculture and climate in a way that works for everyone in the local community,” the project leader said.

“Ultimately we depend on landowners to manage the land to deliver the goods and services that the public want and need. We depend on existing knowledge and experience that landowners have.

“Therefore, we need to ensure coherent messages on the use of land and have the appropriate policy to deliver good environmental outcomes in a way that can support farmers’ livelihoods.”

Other collaborators with the project include the Department of Agriculture, Teagasc, Bord na Móna, Coillte, RTÉ, Fáilte Ireland, The Heritage Council, Northern and Western Regional Assembly and Universidade de Santiago de Compostela.