Written answers

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Special Protection Areas Designation

Photo of Martin FerrisMartin Ferris (Kerry North-West Limerick, Sinn Fein)
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27. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine following the statement by the European Union Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Phil Hogan, regarding compensation to those farmers whose lands were designated a special protection area for the protection of the hen harrier, if he will confirm that funds were allocated by the European Union to compensate these farmers for non-use of their lands. [26069/15]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Minister, Department of Agriculture, the Marine and Food; Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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The Hen Harrier is a ground nesting bird of prey of upland open moorland. The species is listed in Annex 1 of the Birds Directive, meaning that the bird is subject to special conservation measures which require, amongst other things, that Member States designate special protection areas (SPAs) for their conservation. The designation of such lands is a matter in the first instance for the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, who have designated the following areas:

- Slieve Bloom Mountains SPA - (Laois and Offaly);

- Stacks to Mullaghareirk Mountains, West Limerick Hills and Mount Eagle SPA -(Cork, Kerry and Limerick);

- Boggerahs (Mullaghanish/Musheramore Mountains) SPA - (Cork);

- Slievefelim to Silvermines SPA - (Limerick and Tipperary);

- Slieve Beagh SPA - (Monaghan);

- Slieve Aughty Mountains SPA - (Clare and Galway).

No funds have been specifically allocated by the European Union to compensate farmers for designation, but under my Department’s new agri-environment scheme GLAS, which is co-funded by the EU, actions to preserve hen-harrier habitat are explicitly included and were agreed with the EU. Information available to my Department suggests that a total of 4,000 farmers have some designated lands and I envisage that GLAS will be the main source of support under my Department for such farmers. With this in mind, I have made possession of Hen Harrier land a Tier One Priority Environmental Asset under GLAS, guaranteeing that any farmer with an identified habitat will secure priority access to the scheme.

The payment rate for Hen Harrier is €370 per hectare. This payment applies to all lands notified to my Department by the National Parks & Wildlife Service as Hen Harrier Lands, whether these are formally designated or otherwise identified as important for the preservation of the bird. Under the Birds Directive, Ireland is obliged to protect the Hen Harrier wherever it occurs and for this reason I was anxious to ensure that farmers could be properly supported for additional effort and income foregone, and that this would not be restricted to designated Natura sites. In addition, I have provided that farmers with Hen Harrier habitat will automatically qualify for GLAS Plus, offering an increased payment of up to €7,000 per annum provided they manage sufficient area of habitat.

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