Have you heard the Call of the Curlew?
Type Media Article
By Glen Corbett, B&T Drystock Adviser, Galway/Clare
Background to EIPs
With the talk starting to mount lately about the possibility of a REPS 2 scheme in the near future, it’s interesting to note that there is already a locally based Environmental Scheme for farmers up and running in this part of the country.
European Innovation Partnership projects (EIP’s) are funded by the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine (DAFM) under the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020. These locally led schemes promote local solutions to specific issues. They involve the establishment of Operational Groups (made up of relevant stakeholders) to develop ideas or take existing ideas/research and put them into practice by being hands on in working towards the resolution of a practical problem.
So what does that mean? It means that these EIPs, (there are 23 up and running around the country) can identify a local issue of importance such as a particular habitat site or a biodiversity issue such as the reduction in numbers of a nationally important species of animal and focus the Department funds to local farmers that are willing to get involved in solving this issue. It’s a good way of focusing funds other than at a national level, which can’t always help with localized specific issues. Some examples of EIPs around the country are the Hen Harrier and Pearl Mussel projects which Teagasc are also involved with. Further details about other EIPs can be seen at www.agriculture.gov.ie.
Curlew EIP - Curlew Comeback in Co Galway
In this area of County Galway we have an EIP (European Innovation Project), up and running for a few years now. The Irish Breeding Curlew Operational Group was one of the 23 successful applicants under the DAFM EIP programme. The Operational Group is made up of BirdWatch Ireland (the Lead Partner), The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA), The Irish Grey Partridge Conservation Trust (IGPCT) and Teagasc.
The native curlew (we also get a non-native that over-winters in Ireland) is a very distinctive and well known ground nesting bird. Characterized by its long, slender downcurved bill and mottled plumage, it arrives here in March and nests in wetlands or peatlands around the country. However due to a severe decline in numbers in 2007 the Curlew was added to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and in Ireland it is a Red Listed Bird of Conservation Concern. In a recent survey, only 138 pairs were recorded breeding; a 98% population decline since the 1970’s when numbers were about 8,000 pairs.
The Irish Breeding Curlew EIP aims to develop solutions to population declines, through the development and trial of agri-environment measures which address habitat degradation and depredation by predators, in the Republic of Ireland. Something has to be done to arrest the decline in numbers of this bird species before it goes the same way as the corncrake and other endangered animals.
Curlew Agri Scheme
The Irish Breeding Curlew EIP Project aims to develop and trial new approaches to address the decline of breeding Curlew in Ireland, with farmer agreements in 2020 – 2021.
The core measures being trialed include:
- A results based agri-environment measure for Curlew
- A nest protection option, to trial the protection of nests using temporary electric fencing
- A Capital Work programme to improve Curlew breeding habitat
- A knowledge transfer and specialist advisory program to support farmers in achieving the aims of the options
- The development and trial of an agri-environmental predator control option
- The development and trial of a delayed mowing option for silage or hay meadows
- The development and trial of an agri-environmental habitat option for bogs, in draft for implementation in 2021
Project work is to be carried out with participating farmers in Lough Corrib, County Galway and also another site in South Co. Leitrim.
Although its early days in the Curlew EIP, a lot of work has been done by the project team involved; to protect the young of the Curlew at the nesting stage and fledgling stage when the nest and young curlew are very vulnerable to predation. In fact lots of new methods have been tried out here that can be used by other projects successfully.
Farmers are receiving training and will be part of farmer discussion groups with the intention of carrying on the work after the project team have finished their time in the area. The annual payments are good and provide a supplement to the farmers other annual income streams. These biodiversity and habitat decline issues are well known and need to be halted. They are best dealt with by those that know the area best and that is the farmer on the ground.
Traditionally and into the future farmers have worked hand in hand with nature and the environment and that should be promoted as we continue into new CAP agreements in the coming years.