EU pumps €8.1 million into cross-border environmental recovery fund

A cross-border environmental project that will protect endangered species and restore natural habitats is to receive €8.1 million in funding, the EU Programmes Body has announced.

The funding will come under the EU’s special INTERREG VA Programme, which is designed to promote greater levels of cross-border co-operation.

Under the project titled ‘Collaborative action for the natura network’ (CANN), Newry, Mourne, and Down district councils will lead a consortium of government departments, local authorities, research institutions, community groups and charities from across the region.

A Collaborative approach

Project leader for the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) Mel Flexen welcomed the funding, saying: “We are delighted to be involved in an exciting new cross-border project to improve the conservation status of important peatland and wetland habitats.

“Staff from AFBI will play a significant role in this project. We will be conducting mapping of designated nature conservation sites, and carrying out scientific monitoring, over the course of the project.”

Flexen pointed out that the development of a best-practice methodology, including the use of remote sensing technologies, will be instrumental in supporting the objectives of the project.

Gina McIntyre, CEO of the Special EU Programmes Body, which manages the INTERREG VA programme, said: “This project brings together a wide range of partners with an impressive depth of experience in the field of environmental protection.

By working in collaboration with each other, they will be able to make a real and lasting difference on both sides of the border.

The five-year project will help to improve the condition of protected habitats and priority species found within Northern Ireland, the border region and western Scotland.

The protection of these habitats and species will allow the region to meet targets set by the EU’s Birds and Habitats Directives, along with realising the benefits of the many ecosystem services, such as carbon storage, alleviating flooding and visual and cultural landscapes, provided by these areas.

CANN will produce seven ‘species’ and 25 ‘conservation’ action plans aimed at improving the conservation status of 3,150ha of land designated as a ‘Special Area of Conservation’.

Educational project

The project will deliver a series of education and outreach programmes to help increase awareness among local communities of the potential values of natural habitats and endangered species.

Match-funding for the project has been provided by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland; the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government in Ireland; and Scottish Natural Heritage.