News 2012

Title: Upland agri-environment workshop
Date: 10/10/2012
Upland agri-environment workshop

10 October 2012

Mountaineering Ireland hosted a workshop at Sport HQ on Tuesday, 9th October to explore the opportunities for an upland agri-environment programme under the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Mountaineering Ireland (MI) believes the current CAP reform process may offer scope for a scheme to support continuity in low-intensity hillfarming to deliver farm produce, but also reward farmers for the delivery of public goods such as landscape, biodiversity and recreation opportunities.

Karl Boyle, MI's Chief Executive Officer introduced the day highlighting the common ground shared by the stakeholders present and the need to remain focused on this, rather than individual differences or organisational positions. Karl explained that MI is motivated by a concern for the sustainable management of Ireland’s upland areas, and a belief that the most practical and cost-effective way to look after these areas is in conjunction with the people who own and work the land.

To set the context for the workshop, presentations illustrating the situation on the ground were delivered by: Tom Fadian, Chair of the Irish Farmers Association Hillfarming Committee; Ruairí Ó Conchúir, Chair of MI's Access & Conservation Committee and Andy Bleasdale, National Parks & Wildlife Service. This was followed by presentations on the policy framework by Gwyn Jones, European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism and Liam Walsh, Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine.

Working in small discussion groups, the workshop participants focused in on the following key questions:

A. Is a national upland agri-environment scheme the best way to support sustainable management of the upland environment, or is there a better mechanism under CAP?

B. What should change in the upland environment as the result of an upland agri-environment scheme?

C. How do we ensure the scheme is workable and how should an ‘active farmer’ be defined?

D. What land should be eligible for an upland agri-environment scheme?

E. How should an uplands scheme be monitored in terms of the costs and outputs delivered?

F. How can public and political support be achieved for an upland agri-environment scheme at local, regional and national level in the present economic climate?

This led to the final session and discussion on the way forward. Agreement was reached on the need for this type of programme, the formation of a working group, the actions required and an initial timeline. The working group will draft proposals for circulation to a wider consultation group. The working group will include representatives from: Mountaineering Ireland; Birdwatch Ireland; European Forum on Nature Conservation & Pastoralism; Irish Farmers Association; IT Sligo; National Parks & Wildlife Service and Teagasc.

Mountaineering Ireland would like to thank the following organisations for contributing to a very constructive workshop:

BEC Consultants

BirdWatch Ireland

Department of Agriculture, Food & Marine

Department of Environment, Community & Local Government

European Forum on Nature Conservation & Pastoralism

Golden Eagle Trust

Irish Cattle & Sheepfarmers Association

Irish Farmers Association

Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association

Irish Landowners Organisation

Irish Uplands Forum

IT Sligo (Department of Environmental Science)

National Association of Regional Game Councils

National Parks & Wildlife Service


The Heritage Council

Wicklow Cheviot Sheep Owners’ Association

Wicklow Uplands Council

Mountaineering Ireland extends gratitude to all the speakers and the facilitators (Lorcan O’Toole, Golden Eagle Trust; Dr. Mary Tubridy, Irish Uplands Forum; Cliona O' Brien, The Heritage Council; Catherine Keena, Teagasc; Ruairí Ó Conchúir, Mountaineering Ireland and Patrick McGurn, European Forum on Nature Conservation & Pastoralism), with a particular note of thanks to Dr James Moran, IT Sligo, who chaired the closing session.