The BFCP is a pioneering agri-environmental programme which aims to conserve and support the heritage, environment and communities of the Burren. Minister Coveney particularly praised ‘the crucial role of a number of stakeholders in the success of the programme including, the farming participants, Burren IFA, the farm advisors, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Teagasc, the programme management team based in Carron and his own Department.
The Minister said “I am delighted to confirm the issuing of payments amounting to €942,000 to 148 farmers under the BFCP to support high environmental value farming in the Burren which is one of Ireland’s outstanding landscapes and is known worldwide. This brings the allocation to participating famers by my Department over the five years of the Programme to almost €5 million’.
Minister Coveney noted that the BFCP has generated significant environmental benefits for the Burren over its first four years. These included a major shift away from the feeding of silage to ration-based feeding systems, leading to improvements in the condition of grasslands and natural water sources. Over 89,000 meters of stone walls have been repaired while 214 hectares of invasive scrub has been removed – mainly by hand – from rare, species- rich grasslands and ancient monuments. Over 137 km of paths have been reopened enabling livestock access to under-grazed grasslands which can then be restored. Hundreds of water supplies have been protected by installing new tanks, troughs and pumps, resulting in improved water quality in this very sensitive karst landscape.
Minister Coveney emphasised ‘that now more than ever it is essential that funding is focused on programmes like the BFCP delivering, identifiable and verifiable agri- environmental outputs’.
In addition to the positive impact on farmers in the region, the culmination of these works has been a measurable improvement in the state of the Burren’s environment, which in turn supports the region’s growing tourism industry.
Minister Coveney continued that ‘the BFCP certainly guarantees excellent value for money – farmers are paid on the basis of work done and measurable outputs. All works are co-financed by the farmer – and are improving the biodiversity, water quality, cultural and landscape attributes on almost 13,000 hectares of Ireland’s flagship heritage landscape, the Burren’.
In summary, during the fifth year of the BFCP, the Programme has consolidated and grown its impact, profile and maturity. The model of the active stakeholders’ participation and co-operation in so effectively delivering the BFCP is an example for others to follow.
Finally the Minister confirmed that
I have provided €1 million from national funds for the continuation of the Programme in 2015 as unused SPS funds are no longer available.