Draft plan revealed for 2021-2027 Natura 2000 measures

A draft plan has been revealed for the management of the Natura 2000 network in Ireland under the upcoming EU budget.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has launched a public consultation for feedback on the plan – known as the ‘Prioritised Action Framework’.

The plan is described as a ‘strategic multiannual planning tool’, and is aimed, according to the NPWS, at “providing a comprehensive overview of the prioritised measures that are needed to manage the EU-wide Natura 2000 network.

It identifies some of what the NPWS sees as financing needs for Natura 2000 measures for the period 2021 to 2027, and links them to the relevant EU funding programme.

The NPWS stated that the plan does not make any specific funding commitments for farmers. However, it does outline average annual costs – per hectare – that will likely be required for the measures outlined.

Among these are €350/ha for ceasing fertiliser inputs on certain lands. Furthermore, a cost of €400/ha is envisaged for the non-productive investment in certain areas, which would include preventing livestock encroachment on these lands.

Similar funding is said to be necessary for such practices as rush management, removal of scrub, predator control and (non-productive) investment in restoration for habitats of certain birds species.

Another noteworthy measure included in the plan is investment in the restoration of habitats for a type of toad (i.e. ponds), at a cost of €1,000 per pond.

The plan outlines not only the envisaged cost but also the envisaged target area (in hectares) of these schemes and measures.

Other measures outlined in the 116-page plan refer to bogs, native trees, fencing, drain management, cutting pesticides and nutrient management.

For payments to farmers relating to the administration of Natura 2000 sites, the NPWS outlines a cost of €15 million (theoretically per year).

The public consultation on this draft plan runs until September 18.

Farm Plan Scheme

In other NPWS-related news, the service’s Farm Plan Scheme is to receive a €1 million boost under the July Jobs Stimulus package, according to the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan has welcomed the government’s announcement of an €8.5 million investment for heritage under the July Jobs Stimulus package, which was revealed last week.

The July Jobs Stimulus 2020, part of the Programme for Government agreed last month, aims to offset some of the effects of Covid-19 by “revitalising the economy, providing protection for small businesses and getting people back to work”.

Of particular interest to farmers, investment which will be supported under the package include €1 million to reboot and enhance the NPWS Farm Plan Scheme to encourage “results-based biodiversity and species management on farms” and to resource a Farm Planning Unit in NPWS.