A new funding injection of €15 million is set to deliver a boost for a multi-partner, cross-border peatlands restoration project, the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage announced today (Friday, December 16).

The European Union-funded Wild Atlantic Nature LIFE Integrated Project (IP) will receive €10 million from the government’s Shared Island Fund and an additional €5 million in co-funding through the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, in collaboration with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and NatureScot.

The Wild Atlantic Nature project, which was launched in 2021, works with farm families, rural communities and other groups in the northwest of Ireland to “conserve and improve” the quality of blanket bogs.

According to Minister Malcolm Noonan farmers have played a key role in the success of the project.

HIs department said that over the last 12 months 800 farmers have benefitted from a results-based agri-environment payment scheme. This payment is directly linked to the quality of habitat on farms and associated eco systems including including clean water, carbon storage and biodiversity. 

The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (DHLGH) also confirmed that there are plans over the next two years to expand The Wild Atlantic Nature project to focus particularly on Ireland’s 55 bog special areas of conservation.

According to the department this will also support the key objectives of the new Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES) – cooperation project results based agri-environment payment scheme.

The €15 million funding injection announced today will be used to set up “lighthouse sites to develop multi-dimensional peatland restoration”.

Sites in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland will be selected to “deliver peatland restoration, build capacity for long-term peatland management, undertake research and monitoring, exchange knowledge, and address socio-cultural issues across a range of restoration scenarios”.

The funding will also be use to restore private and public lands, reactivate of drained peatlands and in forest to bog restoration.

According to DHLGH the owners and users of the project sites will be at the “centre of any planned activities and participation will be voluntary”.

Minister Noonan said:

“This increased funding recognises the achievements of LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature in a short space of time. The success of this project to date has been based on cooperation with local communities, particularly farmers, to take simple actions to improve habitats on farmland.

“This new funding will allow us to overall develop capacity, share expertise and to intensify our efforts in peatland recovery on a collaborative cross-border basis as part of the government’s Shared Island initiative.

“A lack of technical and organisational capacity in peatland restoration is a barrier to preventing the ongoing decline of our peatlands – this funding will help to bridge that gap, working with our partners in Northern Ireland and Scotland”.

His department has outlined that when blanket bogs are drained or otherwise damaged, “this ecosystem function ceases resulting in carbon loses at a rate of more than 5 tonnes C/ha/year”.

Minister Noonan also warned today that “biodiversity knows no borders” and that he believes the collaborative project acknowledges the importance of partner organisations “working together across jurisdictions to protect and improve our natural environment”.

“Our peatlands are a perfect example of how nature can help with mitigating the effects of climate change.

“I’m delighted that this funding will help strengthen efforts to restore more peatlands to deliver climate and ecosystem services and create a more sustainable island,” the minister added.