Locals take future of Burren into own hands

AFTER two decades of reports from Government and various agencies on what direction the Burren area should take, locals are taking the future of the landmark into their own hands.

Their efforts arise from a grassroots initiative to establish a Burren Community Charter. The move is backed by the Heritage Council, the Burrenbeo Trust Clare and Galway county councils and the Burren IFA.

According to the director of the Burren Farming for Conservation Programme, Dr Brendan Dunford, the proposed community charter “could make a big difference to the future of the Burren”.

Dr Dunford said the community charter “is about local communities having a much greater say in the future of their landscape because the Burren is very different and it is a place that is very difficult to manage from afar”.

He said the bottom-up approach, as shown by the Burren Farming for Conservation Programme, does work in the Burren. In its first year, a total of 117 Burren farmers shared €700,000 after creating the optimum conditions for growing rare and wild flowers.

The scheme has been extended for a second year to allow for an additional 31 farmers, bringing the total participation to 147.

Dr Dunford said the scheme was “a radical new approach and the results have been superb”.

He is hoping for the same results with the Burren charter.

A Burrenbeo spokesperson said: “It is about what the people of the Burren can do for themselves as opposed to what can be done for them.

“It is hoped the charter will help all existing organisations and communities to work together in a more integrated manner, as well as setting out future work priorities for all involved.”

The director of the Burren College of Art, Mary Hawkes, said she fully supports the initiative.

“So many studies have been carried out on the Burren; expert reports written about this stony, precious place — as an empty landscape it is nothing and would revert to a hazel wilderness without human intervention,” Ms Hawkes said.

“The disastrous consequences of this top-down desk approach are evident in the proliferation of segregated agencies with responsibility for the Burren management and most profoundly in the rift still remaining from the Mullaghmore debacle.

“The Burren is a living landscape, its people have framed and shaped it — it is not just an ecological wonder. The people who make their living here are vital to its development and need to be sustained.”

Ms Hawkes added: “The charter process will make people think about what is important to them, to the Burren and their collective future. It will lead to the development of a set of agreed core values from which to respond to the opportunities and threats that present themselves.”

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