Durkan announces £125,600 boost for natural environment

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Environment Minister Mark H Durkan has announced an additional £125,600 to protect our landscape, habitats and species.

Ten not for profit organisations and councils will share a slice of the Natural Environment Fund for varied projects ranging from raptor studies for our birds of prey to wildfire initiatives.

The money is in addition to £1.25million funding already allocated to this fund last year from carrier bag receipts.

Local group Causeway Coast & Glens Heritage Trust will benefit from £15,000 Ecosystems services plan for part of Glens of Antrim. This will include purchase of equipment for environmental projects; and signage audit in three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs).

Mark H Durkan said: “This funding will go directly to projects that protect and improve the environment that we and future generations live in. It will promote health and well-being so that we can all enjoy the full value of our environment.

“I was particularly impressed by the quality and variety of applications. These ranged from improving habitats in our rivers to assisting with a bridge to improve access to help site management for wading birds to projects to ensure enhanced access to our great outdoors. These projects will not only help protect our environment but help connect people with it.”

Martin Carey, Chief Executive of the Mourne Heritage Trust which received £149,000 from the £1.25million Natural Environment Fund in 2015 said: “The award of funding from the Natural Environment Fund (NEF) ensured that Mourne Heritage Trust could proceed to implement the practical aspects of a range of initiatives planned and researched under NIEA’s previous Natural Heritage Grants Programme.

“This included further progressing our schedule of targeted controlled burns - conducted in association with Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service - which help to reduce ‘fuel load’ at critical control points in the landscape and enhance the resilience of the landscape against wildfire incidents. To complement this, we were able to pilot a range of approaches to restoring to favourable condition parts of the upland heath habitat from which the high Mournes takes its European conservation designation and to propagate the genetically distinct and endangered Mourne juniper plant.

“Continuing the integrated approach we have been developing over some years, the funding also supported the aftercare of key access routes in which over £700,000 had been invested under previous funding programmes while enabling early intervention supported to combat erosion through ‘stich in time’ work at areas reaching critical condition. In landscape management, by definition a long-term endeavour, the continuity and ability to maintain momentum provided by the NEF has been critical and we look forward to continuing to work with the NIEA to enhance the valuable and vulnerable natural assets of the Mourne Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”

The Minister concluded: “I pledged that the 5p levy on carrier bags would be ploughed back into the environment. This Natural Environment Fund is one way of doing that plus a great opportunity to support the tireless legions of organisations that are passionate about improving our environment.

“I commend all the fund applicants for their desire to carry out real environmental action within their communities. These projects also need to be turned around swiftly and all of those that have received additional money have robustly demonstrated that they will be able to deliver their projects by the end of March. I look forward to seeing the outcomes of these eleven projects in the near future.”