Over the past four years, 160 Burren farmers have shared a €4m windfall from the State for upkeeping their land to allow Burren flowers flourish.
At a ceremony in Carron in the Burren yesterday, Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan warned, if the funding doesn’t continue for the farmers, the progress witnessed in the Burren environment over the past number of years may be reversed.
He said: “It is a very high priority for me that the funding continues as it is critical for the Burren.”
Mr Deenihan spoke after accepting Ireland’s first European Diploma of Protected Areas Award from the Council of Europe for the sustainable management of the Burren.
Created in 1965, the award recognises the work being undertaken to conserve some of Europe’s most outstanding natural areas and, to date, the diploma has been awarded 72 times to 28 countries.
Mr Deenihan said the Burren winning the award “is a first for Ireland. It is a great day for Ireland and the Burren and demonstrates the critical role the farmer has in maintaining the landscape here.”
He described the Burren as an ‘iconic’ landscape and stated that “it is very important that the State incentivises the farmer to ensure that the flora of the Burren thrives by managing the area.”
He said: “The farmers are custodians of the landscape and are very, very wise and knowledgeable about the landscape here.”
Director of the Burren Farming For Conservation Programme (BFFCP), Dr Brendan Dunford, said that the health of the Burren environment during the four-year history of the project “has gone from strength to strength”.
Dr Dunford said that by the end of this year, 160 farmers in the Burren will have received €4m, or €1m per annum, with individual payments ranging from €1,000 to €15,000 per annum.
Dr Dunford said the project concludes at the end of this year “and we are hopeful of a rollover in 2014 and proposing that the project be rolled out from 2015 on.”