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820 farmers reap the rewards of restoring nature

There was terrific new from my Department this #BiodiversityWeek2023, as they revealed today that farmers in the northwest of Ireland have been rewarded with a total of €2.4 million for delivering on-farm results for nature and biodiversity, water quality and climate action.

Launched in 2021, over the past two years LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature has successfully piloted a Results-Based Agri-Environment Payment Scheme (RBPS) for 820 farmers across six blanket bog Special Areas of Conservation in Donegal, Leitrim, Sligo, Mayo and Galway.

Payments for 2022 ranged from €800 to more than €10,000 per farmer, with an average of €3,100, and this is linked to the environmental quality of the farm, which is determined using a habitat scorecard.

The scorecard system captures levels of biodiversity, water quality and climate regulation, and the better the environmental condition of the land, the higher the payment the farmer receives.

These payments for good environmental outcomes represent a new and potentially lucrative income stream for participating farmers and a very tangible reward for good land management, and if a plot of land scores poorly, support is available to undertake the actions needed to address issues like invasive species control, fencing, livestock crossings, drain management and a range of other actions.

What's really critical to the success of the programme, though, is that it's very much farmer-led, and participation is completely voluntary, and with so much misinformation being circulated over the last number of weeks regarding what farmers will be 'forced to do' under the EU's Nature Restoration Law, it's important to remember that we already have successful exemplar projects like this where farmers are incentivised and rewarded for precisely the kinds of environmental outcomes the NRL seeks to achieve.

In the space of just 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. It’s really encouraging to see such strong engagement amongst landowners in this pilot scheme and, crucially, that we can now look to schemes such as this to incentivise farmers to achieve positive results for nature.


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