Lough Neagh Shoreline Plan Launched

Lough Neagh Shoreline Plan Launched by Minister McIllveen, a Shared Vision to address loss of bird species and wetland habitat on the shores of Lough Neagh

Lough Neagh Shoreline Plan Launched

Lough Neagh is one of our greatest natural resources and one of the most important conservation areas in the whole of Northern Ireland, with very unique species and habitats worth protecting.  Recent years has witnessed the loss of some of these important wetland habitats and a reduction in many of the wetland bird species who both breed and migrate to the Lough.
This new Lough Neagh Shoreline Plan, begins with a shared vision to address the loss of bird species and wetland habitat on the shores of Lough Neagh. Launched in the Discovery Centre, Oxford Island on the 27th of Sept and funded through the Department of Agricultural Natural Environment and Rural Affairs Environment Fund 2015/16 the plan will attempt to address the environmental loss in a new innovative and collaborative way.
Launch of Lough Neagh Shoreline PlanIt builds on the recent £3.5 million Heritage Lottery Fund Landscape Partnership Scheme which was recently awarded to the Lough Neagh Partnership and the plan will be overseen by the Partnership.   The plan will target large landscape-scale areas of privately owned land around the immediate shores of Lough Neagh, attempting to improve the Special Protection Area (SPA) and the Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI) features by collectively working in partnership with farmers, sand traders, landowners, shooting clubs, fishermen and others.  The RSPB will provide support towards turning the shared vision, into a delivered plan, by sharing their expertise and experience from restoring and managing wetland habitats at Portmore Lough and Lough Beg, both of which are part of the Lough Neagh and Lough Beg SPA / ASSI.
The basis of the plan is a scientific baseline approach using geographic maps, aerial photography and information from NIEA phase one habitat surveys. All of the information was gathered and mapped and after extensive stakeholder consultation, a full set of detailed priority actions focusing on improving and monitoring the ASSI and SPA features, was then drawn up.  We are now at a point where we have a shared vision for what needs to happen to restore and sustainably manage the shoreline around Lough Neagh.  This shared vision will help generate target maps that will identify where we work over the next 6 years.
Launch of Lough Neagh Shoreline PlanLough Neagh over the last 30 years has been the subject of numerous plans and strategies with some successfully implemented and others which have sat on a variety of shelves.  However, the purpose of this plan is to be a practical working tool, which will assist not only stakeholders on the ground but also the new Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs, to manage the Lough Neagh shoreline in a holistic and landscape-scale way.  One way to deliver this is through the delivery of an effective Environmental Farming Scheme at a Group Landscape Level.  This would create strong working links between the Department and partners on the ground, to deliver real conservation on the ground.
One of the fundamental aspects of this plan has been the creation of forum of stakeholders who will act as a driver for the plan.  The forum includes land owners, farmers, sand traders, farmer representatives, shooting and conservation clubs and Lough Neagh fishermen. The forum has influencers who will provide strong leadership and help support people who work or own the shoreline to consider the importance of conserving and sustainably managing our important wetland habitats and species.
Launch of Lough Neagh Shoreline PlanConor Corr, the Chairperson of the Lough Neagh Partnership, highlighted the importance of this new vision and plan for the conservation of the Lough.
“This will result in a new comprehensive Conservation Management Plan, designed to act as a demonstration of best practice for developing and delivering other management plans that will follow on in other areas.  However, its overall aim is very straightforward, to set in place a shared vision that informs and supports farmers and landowners, attracts investment towards shoreline farms, and  improves the favourable status of the Loughs main features associated with the SPA and ASSI designation.”
With a shared vision for this landscape in place, the delivery of a management plan will run for 6 years from 2016 – 2022 to bring about real and substantial improvement to the Lough’s rich wetland habitats and unique species.   Over the next 2 months Gerry Darby, the plan co ordinator, will be building upon the vision and plan and holding a number of information sessions around the lough, to consult with the farmers who manage the shores as we finalise the drawing up of target maps and identify farmers and landowners who are keen to become involved.
Contact Gerry Darby for further details
Tel:028 7941 7941
This project is funded by NIEA under DAERA
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