A model of conservation in the Burren

Principles of farmer-led biodiversity project should be applied far more widely

 

The BurrenLife Farming for Conservation Programme has received a high accolade as joint winner of the EU Life award for excellence in nature and biodiversity. EU Life is the union’s funding instrument for environment and climate action. An expert panel shortlisted the Burren programme and a Europe-wide public vote put it in first place.

There are two distinctive features about this project, still thriving seven years after its Life funding ended. First, it is farmer-led. It was born out of the frustration of people such as local Irish Farmers Association member Michael Davoren with what they regarded as red tape in the EU Habitats and Birds Directives. Instead of simply rejecting these regulations, they sought advice from Teagasc and the National Parks and Wildlife Service on how they might marry conservation with the need to make a living. Like most Irish farmers, they have no desire to degrade their local landscapes.

The state agencies put them in touch with an innovative agricultural post-graduate, Brendan Dunford. Together they developed the programme’s second distinctive feature as an agri-environmental scheme: its emphasis on outputs, not prohibitions. As Davoren told a Dáil committee, they learned to produce good quality landscapes much as they had always produced good quality cattle: “The environmentalists will state what we need to protect, and the farmers will decide how it can be protected”.

The outcome has been a welcome return to floral diversity in this iconic region, benefitting tourism and sustaining a vibrant and dynamic local community at a time when so many rural areas are in chronic decline. The Burren Programme now has a few offshoots elsewhere. But the best way to celebrate its EU award would be to recognise it as a national champion and apply its principles far more widely to our agricultural production. This would give real substance to the much-hyped marketing claims, often demonstrably false, that Irish agriculture is environmentally friendly.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.