FOUNDERS OF THE BURREN programme are set to step down from their positions.
Planned changes to the programme which is estimated to have contributed €23m to the local economy has been panned by local farmers. The Burren Programme has won five international awards including a diploma from the EU Council, which is the only diploma award Ireland has ever received for environmental farming.
Manager of the Burren Programme, Dr. Brendan Dunford, confirmed that himself and Sharon Parr will be standing down from the ACRES Burren Aran co-operation project (CP).
They helped to establish the agri-environmental scheme which was formerly called BurrenLIFE. Their company, HNV Services, won the contract to administer an expanded scheme, which also includes the Aran Islands and East Galway, in May of this year. The scheme had been designed to protect the world-famous ecosystem of the Burren.
“Our time has come, I guess, and we are confident in the ability and determination of our colleagues to deliver the best they can for the Burren’s farmers and their landscape under the new ACRES CP. While there are some very positive elements to ACRES, there are particular issues of concern for some Burren farms and farmers which we feel we couldn’t, in good faith, stand over, and so we decided to step down,” Dr Dunford outlined in a statement.
ACRES Co-operation will be open to around 20,000 farmers in areas of the country which were deemed by a cross-government working group as being high-priority areas. These CP zones include areas dominated by semi-natural vegetation (both privately owned and in commonage), Natura 2000 lands, and priority water catchments.
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue (FF) is to meet with North Clare farmers to hear their concerns this coming Tuesday. Fears have been expressed that the average Burren farmer will lose between €7,000 and €8,000 under the ACRES initiative.
“I think it’s a fabulous scheme in the Burren. And we need to have more of those schemes, and farmers need … to have income streams that encourages and incentivise restoration of biodiversity, protection of biodiversity,” Taoiseach Micheál Martin (FF) said when questioned on the matter in the Dáil.