Wicklow Uplands Council passed a significant milestone this month with the full details its much anticipated SUAS project been revealed at a recent public information evening at Glendalough’s Brockagh Centre.
Following several years of extensive study of upland vegetation management, the decline in farming activities and the impact it was having on these environmentally significant habitats, the ‘Sustainable Uplands Agriculture-environment Scheme (SUAS)’ pilot project aims to use innovative means to address these issues.
The first scheme of its type in Ireland, it will assist both commonage groups and individual farmers with locally led initiatives and is purposely designed to address the complex agricultural, environmental and socio-economic challenges associated with upland farming in the Wicklow and Dublin upland region.
Speaking following the recent information evening, Brian Dunne, Coordinator for Wicklow Uplands Council shared:
“SUAS was originally proposed by Wicklow Uplands Council in 2013 as a recommendation of its ‘Study to Identify the Best Management of Upland Habitats in County Wicklow’. That study was completed following extensive research and collaboration with local farmers and upland stakeholder organisations”
“It will certainly be a learning process for all involved but it will also be a rewarding opportunity for many across the entire upland community. The nature of it being a pilot scheme, is to also create a step by step guide for future locally led upland agri-environmental schemes, which is something we are very mindful of as the successes of region may well be referenced across Europe in the coming years”
The project is one of 12 successful groups chosen from across Ireland under the new European Innovations Partnership (EIP) initiative. The initiative which is being operated by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine sees a possible €11m in funding being made available nationwide.
Following the unveiling of the scheme, Michael Starrett of The Heritage Council added:
“If ever the sustained support for small scale locally based projects was in doubt, the inclusion of the SUAS project nurtured through our work on developing Uplands Partnerships in the list of successful EIP initiatives, should remove it once and for all as we celebrate the launch of a new and exciting chapter for Wicklow Uplands Council ‘
The projects’ goals are quite extensive with the results of the scheme expected to increase the number of sheep on the hills and an extension to the grazing period over the coming years. This will be achieved through increasing the ecological and productive value of these habitats.
Improvement of the biodiversity, the protection of water quality and maintaining recreational access are also key components and will be developed by integrating environmental and farming activities into a single management plan.
The establishment of commonage groups with their own constitutions, training and support also feature in the scheme.
According to Minister for State and local TD, Andrew Doyle
“This project offers great potential to help us to build on the success of the agri-food sector in recent years, and to address some of the remaining challenges with a fresh and innovative approach,”
“I look forward to seeing the continued benefits of the project in the Wicklow Uplands. SUAS benefits the entire community in the Wicklow Mountains, from our local communities and land owners to the thousands of visitors who visit Wicklow to enjoy our unique landscape and ecosystem.”
Further information on the SUAS project along with Expression of Interest Forms can be obtained from the office and online at www.wicklowuplands.ie . The closing date for Wicklow Uplands receiving completed Expression Of Interest Forms is the 30th of March