Lough Neagh Partnership is working with farmers along the shores of Lough Neagh to encourage them to participate in the DAERA Environmental Farms Scheme in recognition of the decline in important species and wetland habitats in Lough Neagh. The scheme provides assistance to compensate farmers to help improve important habitats on their farms and encourage the protection of important species.

The Partnership has set up a new Group Farm Scheme which will help farmers draw up Environment Farm Scheme plans, help them with monitoring and recording requirements, encouraging farmers to work and train together and to try and create larger integrated wildlife corridors.

Lough Neagh Partnership has already engaged 25 farmers on the scheme focusing on the southern and western shores of the Lough. Over 141 hectares of species rich grassland have been included in the scheme, together with 45 hectares of wet woodland and 50km of fencing.  Over £757,188 of Environmental Farm Scheme funding has been earmarked for the Lough Neagh shoreline area with an average assistance of £745/ha.

Conor Jordan, chairperson of Lough Neagh Partnership, highlighted the importance of this new innovative scheme. Conor said: “The Lough has seen a serious decline in bird species together with good habitat for breeding wetland birds. This Group Farm Scheme along with other important work carried out by the Partnership under their HLF landscape Scheme and their Shoreline Plan will help to start to address this problem.

“Farmers own over 98% of the shoreline of Lough Neagh and are probably the most important stakeholders to engage with if you wish to improve the conservation of the Lough.  But it is important to provide them with the right level of assistance also. So far farmers have shown a great interest and we hope to build on the programme when the Environmental Farm Scheme opens again in the spring.

“Thanks must go to DAERA for providing funding for a new Lough Neagh Group Farm Scheme Coordinator and we are also very lucky to have started Mike Meharg as the new Coordinator. Mike is a farmer himself who lives near the shores of the Lough and has years of experience working in the environment sector.”

The Group Farm Scheme will be officially launched by Lough Neagh Partnership in the Discovery Centre, Oxford Island, on Tuesday 29 January at 11.00am. Information of how to join up and the advantages of joining up will also be provided.

If you are interested in becoming involved in the scheme you will be warmly welcomed at the launch on Tuesday or contact the Group Coordinator Mike Meharg on tel 07834 322214 or by email at michaelj.meharg@gmail.com

TOUR LOUGH NEAGH AT YOUR LEISURE THIS SPRING

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