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Ministers Hackett and Noonan join forces to Conserve the Curlew

Ministers Pippa Hackett and Malcolm Noonan have combined,  along with their respective departments, to drive forward plans to conserve the iconic curlew.   Yesterday, Minister Noonan’s National Parks and Wildlife Service advertised for 30 contractors to work with the Curlew Conservation Programme, with the intention that the work would start immediately.

The Curlew Conservation Programme is primarily run and funded by the NPWS, which is under Minister Noonan’s remit, but an extra injection on money from the Department of Agriculture has enabled the field officers to be put in place earlier in the year than would otherwise have been the case. 

Referring to the immediate recruitment drive, Minister Hackett said:  ‘I am delighted to be supporting this initiative, which allows for people to begin work earlier in the year, because we need people in place now.  The pre-season period from mid January to March is crucial and this early hiring means that in advance of the breeding season, Field Officers will be able to come on board and lay the foundations for the year ahead with local landowners and communities.

Emphasising just how important it is to do that, and devote resources to the conservation effort Minister Noonan added, “I warmly welcome this partnership between my own Department and Minister Hackett’s. The situation for the  Curlew is one of the most difficult and pressing conservation concerns of our time: we’ve seen a 96% decline of breeding Curlew since the late 1980s/early 1990s, and it is now threatened with extinction. I’m heartened to see early signs that the vital collaboration between the Curlew Action Teams, local farmers and communities is already benefitting its conservation. This funding will allow us to strengthen that collaboration and work together to protect this iconic and much-loved bird.”

The Curlew Conservation Programme, which finds and supports Curlew to rear their young chicks is now in its fifth season.  It was established by the National Parks & Wildlife Service in 2017, with the Department of Agriculture coming on board as partners in 2020.  The joint funding package this year will amount to €500,000.

Minister Hackett spoke of added value, the partnership brings however when she said, “My Department is already helping curlew conservation through locally led schemes and also through our flagship environmental scheme GLAS  but this cooperation goes beyond funding.   It also means that Curlew Advisory Officers will engage with existing GLAS Advisors who have developed GLAS Curlew plans. This will upskill advisors who operate in Curlew areas and will pave the way for future relations between agri-environmental advisors and specialist advisors.  Such joined up efforts are essential as we look to farmers and landowners to protect our last curlew.  They hold the future in their hands and I know they are ready to make positive changes for nature when provided with specialist support and advice.”

Minister Noonan agreed saying, “The Curlew is a link with the wild Ireland of past generations, and the farmers and landowners who support our remaining breeding populations of Curlew are vital to its future. I hope that this funding will further the important work already undertaken by them in conjunction with the Curlew Conservation Programme, and help to ensure that the beautiful and unique cry of the Curlew will continue to be a part of the soundscape of the Irish countryside for many years to come.”

Notes to Editors: 

Minister Pippa Hackett is Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, with Responsibility for Land Use and Biodiversity.  Minister Malcolm Noonan is Minister of State for Heritage & Electoral Reform the Department of Housing.

The Curlew Conservation Programme is seeking applications for positions on Curlew Action Teams. Details can be found on the National Parks & Wildlife Service website at www.npws.ie or by emailing Agri.Ecology@chg.gov.ie

The Curlew Conservation Programme (CCP) is a joint initiative between the National Parks & Wildlife Service (Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage) and the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine.  It was founded in 2017.  This year, the joint funding for the programme will amount to €500,000

Breeding Curlew have suffered a 96% decline since the late 1980s/early 1990s and so it is threatened with extinction as a breeding species in Ireland. Various factors have driven the decline, but the work of the CCP is vital in tackling it.

CCP delivers conservation action. Dedicated fieldworkers work across nine different geographical locations as part of ‘Curlew Action Teams’, delivering a locally-led approach for Curlew. They survey for and find Curlew nests, they engage with local landowners and undertake specific actions (e.g. talking to landowners, habitat enhancement, temporarily fencing off nests from predators, providing advice to agri-environmental planners, etc.)

Education and wider community involvement and participation have also been a key part of the CCP to date (see for example Curlew structures unveiled at three towns/villages in 2020 – more to come in 2021).  The relationships between landowners and our Curlew Action Teams have grown.

The Curlew Task Force (a forum of various stakeholders including NPWS, DAFM, eNGOs, Farming Organisations, etc.) recommended that Curlew conservation requires a joined-up and integrated approach. In response, DAFM have partnered with NPWS on the CCP, in addition to DAFM separately administering GLAS plans for Curlew and supporting the Irish Breeding Curlew EIP under that Department’s Rural Development programme with an investment of €1.1.m in a locally-led scheme South Lough Corrib and South Leitrim.

The CCP is due to continue in 2021, with Curlew Action Teams across 9 geographical areas covering roughly half of known Curlew locations in Ireland. Approximately 30 contractors will be employed for the field season. The financial contribution from DAFM to NPWS for the CCP allows for the employment of contractors early in the year, in advance of the breeding season. This pre-season period from mid-January to March is crucial in preparation for when Curlews return to their breeding grounds in spring. It will also allow for Curlew Advisory Officers (the lead person in each local Curlew Action Team) to host training days for existing GLAS planners who have developed GLAS Curlew plans, resulting in synergies for GLAS planners, participants and the receiving environment. This will ‘upskill’ planners who operate in Curlew areas and pave the way for future relations between agri-environmental planners and specialist advisors.

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