A new project aiming to secure existing breeding wader populations at key sites and support their recovery through wider landscape management and policy development was launched this week. The €25m breeding waders EIP is jointly funded by the National Parks and Wildlife Service at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, under the European Innovation Partnership (EIP) Agri Programme.

The project launch highlighted the scale of the challenge faced, stating that “populations of breeding waders, which include Curlew, Dunlin, Lapwing and Golden Plover, among others, have declined by as much as 98% in recent decades in the Irish countryside”.

Farmer support

Some €17.5m in funding is being provided by the NPWS, with the balance of €7.5m provided by the Department of Agriculture. The NPWS has also committed to an additional strategic fund of €5m for breeding waders.

It is envisaged that the funding will be sufficient to support up to 650 farmers to put in place measures to improve habitat quality and implement actions that enhance the conservation of breeding waders.

EIP projects are locally-led schemes which are designed and implemented by collaborative groups involving farmers, scientists, ecologists and other experts to deliver specific goals.

The Breeding Waders EIP is being led by Irish Rural Link in partnership with Michael Martyn Agri-Environment, Irish Wildlife Services, Hen Harrier Project, Atlantic Technological University, University College Dublin, Zoological Society of Ireland and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.

Government commitment

Speaking at the launch, Minister McConalogue said: “This important initiative under Ireland’s 2023-2027 CAP Strategic Plan, and the funding of €25 million provided, is proof of the Government’s commitment to protect the wader populations that are currently present at important locations and to promote population recovery through broader landscape management and evidence-based policy development.”

Minister of State for Nature, Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD, added: “This EIP is a lifeboat that carries our hopes for breeding wader conservation in Ireland. For many years, the NPWS and DAFM have worked together to conserve breeding wader populations, generating valuable expertise and knowledge on what is required to maintain and support these beautiful birds.

“This new approach means that this work will now be expanded, and for the first time, appropriately funded to tackle the decline of overall populations and ranges.”

While Minister for Land Use and Biodiversity, Senator Pippa Hackett, said:

“We know how successful the locally led EIP model can be, with farmers coming together backed by expert advice to take targeted actions for biodiversity enhancement and to bring about meaningful landscape change. We are supporting the Breeding Waders EIP with a €25m budget and a world class project team, and I am really looking forward to following its progress over the coming years and, all going well, seeing much healthier breeding wader numbers in the Shannon Callows and beyond.”