Almost €500,000 is currently being paid to farmers by the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine as a bonus in recognition of their contribution to the successful 2019 hen harrier breeding season.
It comes on top of the annual payment under a €25m scheme, part of Ireland’s Rural Development Programme.
Last year, 56 confirmed pairs of hen harrier in six Special Protection Areas (SPAs) reared at least 81 chicks.
This was the highest number for 14 years. The gains were mostly in Kerry where one pair raised an almost unprecedented five chicks.
Agriculture, Food, and Marine Minister Michael Creed said the scheme is a key biodiversity measure from his department and has gone from strength to strength.
“More than 1,500 participant farmers are helping to conserve this beautiful bird for generations to come,” he said,
The purpose of the programme is to pilot new approaches to farming for conservation with farmers being paid for improving the natural habitat to deliver defined environmental objectives.
Over €3m in habitat payments have been paid to farmers over the last six months. The bonus payment is for qualifying farmers based on how well hen harriers are doing in their area.
Minister Creed said the bonus recognises and rewards farmers for their work and is an acknowledgement that the hen harrier is an asset in the farming landscape.
It’s a highly innovative approach, he said, congratulating Fergal Monaghan and his team for their continued success on the project and for helping the farmers manage the upland landscapes on which the hen harriers depend.
The project has been operational since 2017 and will run until spring 2023. The participating farmers manage 38,000 ha of upland landscapes.
Irish Farmers Association Hill Committee Chairman Flor McCarthy, who welcomed the bonus payment, said it acknowledges the commitment of farmers to the scheme, which is having a positive impact in the Special Protection Areas.
The scheme is a key support for farmers with designated land but more needs to be done to deal with restrictions imposed by the European Union Habitats directive, he said.