New Hen Harrier project launched in bid to save the endangered species

Published by Niall Sargent on

December 11th, 2017

The Government’s new €25m five-year Hen Harrier Programme is now open for application in a bid to save one of Ireland’s most endangered species.

The programme is targeted specifically at farmers with land in the six Special Protection Areas (SPA) designated for the hen harrier.

The scheme will incentivise farmers to manage their fields in ways that will improve the habitat condition for the species. All eligible land will be scored annually, with farmers with higher scores receiving higher payments.

All lands within SPAs are eligible for payment except areas with active turf cutting for domestic use, buildings or farmyards and commercial forestry are eligible.

Payment for the provision of linear strips of wild bird cover and the establishment of hedgerows are the only case where payments will be made on undesignated lands where there is a clear conservation benefit.

Hen Harrier Photo: Rob Zweers

A Species in Decline

A medium-sized raptor with a wide wingspan, the hen harrier is currently Amber-listed due to a decline in the breeding population.

The ground-nesting bird breeds in bogs and the upland impacted in recent years by coniferous forest plantations, agricultural land reclamation, peat extraction and wind farm development.

The national population has declined for the last 40 years with only 108 to 157 breeding pairs left in the entire country. Since 2005, the breeding population within the SPA network has fallen by over a quarter, with a 2017 Golden Eagle Trust survey warning of continued decline.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed T.D, said that he was delighted to launch the “critical” programme.

He added: “This is a prime example of a locally-led results-based scheme which will combine meaningful conservation measures with a strong local focus of delivery to farmers in the six SPA hen harrier areas.”

The Programme will show how Irish farmers can work “in tune with the environment” to help save one of our most endangered species, the Minister said.

Michael Creed, Minister, Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, Ireland Photo: Aron Urb

Results-based core

Irish Wildlife Trust Campaigns Officer, Pádraic Fogarty said that the conservation body is “very supportive” of the new project and wish it every success.

Mr Fogarty told The Green News that he was particularly impressed with the “results-based core” of the project, adding that he would like to see this approach “emulated across the country”.

He warned, however, that the success of the project ultimately depends upon the premiums dished out. “If the farmers’ income does not at least match that of forestry grants it is unlikely to be popular,” he added.

In April, Hen Harrier Project Ltd, a consortium of conservationists, agricultural advisors and environmental scientists, was chosen to design and deliver the new scheme following a competitive tender process.

The consortium is led by Fergal Monaghan, an experienced farm advisor, who will work alongside the Golden Eagle Trust and an extensive team of raptor specialists, fieldworkers and farm advisors.

The programme is now open for application and an expression of interest form can be obtained from the Hen Harrier Project website:

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London