A new measure for farmers in Hen Harrier areas is to be developed under the new Locally-Led Agri-Environment Schemes (LLAES), the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said today.

The Minister provided an update on the progress made so far by his Department in supporting farmers in designated Hen Harriers areas.

By way of background, the Minister said that he has already provided for priority access for farmers with Hen Harrier land under the GLAS (Green Low Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme) and those farmers could earn up to €7,000 per annum through a combination of GLAS and GLAS plus.

“I intend to introduce a further measure under the Locally Led Agri-Environment Scheme to cater for those farmers who are farming large tracts of Hen Harrier Land.”

The Minister emphasised that such farmers should join GLAS – the second tranche of which has now opened to applications.

“By joining GLAS now farmers in Hen Harrier areas are assuring themselves of benefiting from the generous payments under that scheme.

“Farmers with large tracts of hen harrier designated land will then be eligible to also apply for the new LLAES measure when it is up and running, he said.”

If all those farmers with Hen Harrier land applied, this would amount to more than €23m per annum for Hen Harrier actions alone in GLAS and GLAS plus.

The previous Farmland Birds Scheme operated by the Department of Arts Heritage and Gaeltacht was paying out approximately €3.5m per annum for all farmland birds.

“This is a major increase in public funding for this important conservation action being undertaken by farmers” the Minister said.

This new locally led agri-environment scheme will be included in our application for an amendment of Ireland’s RDP which is to be lodged with the EU Commission in the Spring.

This first phase of the new LLAES will include provision for expansion of the Burren conservation scheme and action on areas important for the pearl mussel, in addition to the new hen harrier measure.

The possibilities for early introduction of an upland peats measure are also being examined.

“My Department is now engaged in detailed consultation with all the stakeholders and I would encourage all those interested to participate fully in this consultation process.

In addition, I welcome the recent publication of the Report from the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture Food and the Marine on the Hen Harrier,” the Minister said.

Minister Coveney also said that he had agreed with Minister Heather Humphreys that work on the forestry aspects of the Hen Harrier Threat Response Plan would be accelerated.

“The intention here is to give clarity to land owners about where afforestation planting is possible and to avoid any restrictions that are not necessary and beneficial from an environmental perspective.”