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More practical measures needed for hen harrier threat response

More targeted, longstanding and tangible supports – advisory and financial – are required for farmers to be included in the Hen Harrier Threat Response Plan 2024-2028.

Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) Ulster/North Leinster regional chair and Special Area of Conservation (SAC) Project Team chair, Frank Brady said: “The key role and preservation efforts that farmers in hen harrier areas are  playing, in maintaining and enhancing the hen harrier habitats needs to be better supported. Initiatives must be given time too to develop and yield tangible results.”
He added: “There’s no point having a five-year scheme and then pulling the plug, or diluting its ambition by throwing it into a less targeted nationally run scheme, like ACRES, and paying farmers even less for their endeavours. Because that’s where we at are today,” he added.
“Farmers/foresters cannot be less well off from their efforts to preserve the hen harrier and under no heading can there be any further designation of lands, or restrictions placed on SAC/non-SAC lands.”
He said that designations slash land values and increase the management costs due to higher environmental standards, which decrease farmers’ flexibility with regards the management of the land.
IFA Farm Forestry chair Jason Fleming added that there needs to be acceptance that forest management practices including afforestation are wholly compatible with hen harrier conservation when managed at a landscape level.
“The restrictions on planting and forest management activity within SPAs and non-designated important areas need to be reviewed as they are currently unworkable on some sites. National annual surveys need to be undertaken to provide more accurate conservation information to minimise disturbance to both hen harriers and forest operations,” he said.