The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed T.D. has announced that almost €500,000 will be paid to farmers this week in recognition of their contribution to the very successful 2019 hen harrier breeding season. This payment, which comes on top of the annual scheme payment for farmers, is a dividend payment rewarding hen harrier presence and success on the farmer’s land last year. The Hen Harrier Programme is a €25m scheme from the Department as part of Ireland’s Rural Development Programme.
Last year was a very successful one for hen harriers – the 56 confirmed pairs in the six Special Protection Areas (SPAs) reared at least 81 chicks. This was the highest number for 14 years. The gains were most pronounced in Kerry where one pair raised an almost unprecedented five chicks.
Minister Creed stated, ‘‘This Hen Harrier scheme is a key biodiversity measure from my 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. Last year’s successful breeding season comes after a lot of hard work by many stakeholders and it is fitting that we are rewarding this during National Biodiversity Week.”
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. The Hen Harrier Programme invests with farmers in actions that can support the delivery of quality habitats. Over €3m in habitat payments have been paid to farmers over the last six months. The bonus payment this week is the payment from the Hen Harrier Programme to qualifying farmers based on how well Hen Harriers are doing in their area.
The Minister added, “This bonus payment 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 and I congratulate Fergal Monaghan and his team in the Hen Harrier Programme for their continued success on the project and for helping the farmers manage the upland landscapes on which the Hen Harriers depend.”