Mountain habitats to benefit from new upland network State partnership

‘Need for voice of the uplands to be heard’ says national co-ordinator Mary Mulvey

Kerry farmers meet Galway counterparts to work on trail repair and erosion management issues as part of the new national uplands initiative supported by the Heritage Council Photograph: Siobhan Bennett

Kerry farmers meet Galway counterparts to work on trail repair and erosion management issues as part of the new national uplands initiative supported by the Heritage Council Photograph: Siobhan Bennett

 

Mountain habitats under threat from environmental degradation are to be managed through a new partnership between State bodies and upland communities.

Heritage manager Mary Mulvey has been appointed upland network co-ordinator by the Heritage Council to support local groups in planning and sustainably managing mountain environments.

Focus will be on agriculture, tourism, social heritage and conservation, and Ms Mulvey said there is a “real need for the voice of the uplands to be heard at all levels in national policies”

Already, plans have been laid for grant-aided cross-county visits to share experiences and training,

Some 200 members of 25 groups are undertaking research trips. Recently, for instance, Kerry farmers in the MacGillycuddy Reeks Mountain Access Forum hosted a visit to the Reeks by members of the Leenane Development Association of Co Galway.

A study undertaken by Teagasc, the agriculture food and development authority, found that only 18 per cent of farmers had stock grazing upland areas in 2014, compared to 90 per cent in 1999.

Overgrazing reduction

Since the EU and State initiatives to reduce overgrazing, there has been a 93 per cent increase in heather, 63 per cent increase in bracken and 22 per cent decrease in the proportion of grassland, the Teagasc study found.

It found that farming with locally led agri-environmental schemes was still the most sustainable and economically beneficial way of managing the State’s uplands.

Ms Mulvey, from Co Leitrim, has previously worked with the English Tourist Board, Board Fáilte, Heritage Towns of Ireland, the Irish Peatland Conservation Council, Greenbox and Ecotourism Ireland.

Speaking at an Irish Uplands Forum conference in Mulranny, Co Mayo, she said that the underlying vision of the uplands network was to “maintain upland communities and Ireland’s mountain environs as attractive, vibrant and welcoming places where people live, work and recreate”

She explained that the network is an all-Ireland partnership initiative comprising national government, local government, upland community, hill-farming, recreational user and ecological and rural non-governmental organisations.