€25 million call for proposals for a European Innovation Partnership on Breeding Waders

Plans for a landmark new project for one of Ireland’s most vulnerable group of birds, breeding waders, have been announced by Ministers of State Pippa Hackett and Malcolm Noonan, with the launch of a €25 million Call for Proposals for a European Innovation Partnership (EIP) on the theme of Breeding Waders. Minister Noonan is also making an additional €5m available for NPWS to implement strategic conservation measures.

Populations of breeding waders, which include Curlew, Dunlin, Lapwing, and Golden Plover, among others, have declined by as much as 98% in recent decades in the Irish countryside. The key objectives of this EIP project will be to secure existing wader populations at key sites and to support population recovery via wider landscape management and policy development.

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Pippa Hackett, said:

“I am delighted to announce the new Breeding Wader European Innovation Partnership with my colleague Minister Malcolm Noonan. Lapwing, Redshank, Curlew and Snipe would have been a familiar sight in many parts of the countryside in the past, but are now reduced to very small, and, in some cases, critical numbers. Today’s announcement will play a significant role in helping reverse those trends.”

“We have used the EIP model over the past number of years to help bring farmers and other stakeholders together in local and regional groups, backed up with the financial and administrative support they need, and I am delighted we can now bring forward an EIP of this scale to help save some of our most endangered birds. It is essential that we work with and alongside farmers to ensure these birds can thrive again at key sites. Collaboration and buy-in at a local level are key to addressing some of our most challenging conservation concerns. Now is the time to reinforce those partnerships and to support our breeding waders – before it’s too late.”

Minister of State for Nature, Heritage and Electoral Reform at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Malcolm Noonan TD, said:
“I am delighted that the NPWS of my Department will contribute €17.5m to ensure that the essential work between farmers, communities, landowners and other organisations to protect these amazing birds will continue and expand under a new Breeding Wader European Innovation Partnership.

“Over many years, partnership between the NPWS and DAFM on the Curlew Conservation Programme has shown how collaboration at local level can work towards addressing some of the most challenging conservation concerns of our time. Building on these efforts and expertise, this EIP will provide a conservation framework for the conservation of these special birds, including Curlew, Lapwing, Dunlin, Redshank, Snipe and Golden Plover. It is a great opportunity to provide positive synergies and collaboration across programmes at local and national level for these threatened species.
“In addition to the €17.5m investment in this EIP by my department, I am delighted to announce an additional €5m fund for breeding waders over the next five years,”

Minister Noonan added:

“This investment will be used strategically by NPWS, for example for the creation of permanent predator proof fences, which we have seen to deliver for breeding waders at various sites around Ireland.”

Commenting on the launch of the call, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, said:

“My Department is investing significantly in European Innovation Partnerships (EIP) as part of the CAP Strategic Plan. There is good reason for this with Ireland’s EIP initiatives proving a successful approach to not only the protection of our biodiversity but across a multitude of areas from water quality improvement to heritage to gender balance and much more besides. An additional benefit to this EIP is the collaboration between our two departments which will undoubtedly strengthen it, building on the joint approach in the Curlew Conservation Programme.”

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, added:

“I’m delighted to see the co-operation between our two departments continuing through this Breeding Waders EIP, following on from our collaboration on the recently announced Local Authority Waters Programme (LAWPRO) EIP. Our departments have also worked well together on Ireland’s 5th Nitrates Action Programme, which came into effect earlier this year and contains a number of new and strengthened measures to protect and improve water quality.”

Minister Hackett concluded:

“There has been strong engagement between our two Departments on biodiversity and water quality issues and we look forward to continuing this positive engagement as this Breeding Waders EIP is rolled out.”

The new EIP is being launched at a time of large-scale declines in the range and size of Breeding Wader populations in Ireland. All populations are in unfavourable conservation status, and some are threatened with national extinction as breeding birds. Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), Curlew (Numenius arquata), Dunlin (Calidris alpina), Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria), Redshank (Tringa totanus) and Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) were formerly far more abundant, and are now a high conservation priority and red-listed on The Birds of Conservation Concern in Ireland.
To date, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has worked together with the NPWS on conservation efforts aimed at Breeding Wader populations. These include localised efforts, while Curlew has also seen more widespread conservation efforts, for example through the Curlew Conservation Programme (2017-2023). While these efforts have generated valuable experience on what is required to maintain and support Breeding Waders at local and specific sites, overall populations and range of breeding waders in Ireland continue to decline.
Both NPWS and DAFM officials have prepared a framework and a call for an EIP as a key driver in the delivery of conservation measures for Breeding Waders. This EIP proposes to continue, expand and build on conservation efforts to date, and to support innovative integration with existing efforts, such as those in ACRES and LIFE projects. The new initiative aims to support innovation and scale up efforts to improve the conservation status of Breeding Wader populations, with the aim of halting their decline nationally, improving breeding success, and maintaining and expanding their breeding range.
The EIP initiative is co-funded by the European Commission and the Irish Government under the CAP Strategic Plan. In this case, both the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the National Parks & Wildlife Service will fund agri-environmental actions, while the National Parks and Wildlife Service will also fund the Operational Group’s administrative costs.
The EIP initiative involves a range of stakeholders (farmers, advisors, researchers, NGOs) coming together in what are termed ‘Operational Groups’ to trial innovative solutions that the Groups themselves have developed.
European Innovation Partnership (EIP) projects are locally-led schemes which are designed and implemented by collaborative groups involving farmers, scientists, ecologists and other experts to deliver specific goals. There were 57 such projects under the last Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) ranging from themes such as climate, biodiversity, water, farm-safety, animal welfare and archaeology. Some notable EIP projects to date have included the BRIDE project, Danú, Pearl Mussel Project and Hen Harrier Project. This Breeding Waders EIP, which is the first EIP under the new CAP Strategic Plan, will be one of the largest EIPs to date, totalling €25m, with €17.5m coming via the NPWS and €7.5m via DAFM. In addition, the NPWS is committing to a strategic fund for breeding waders of €5m, to be invested as required, for example in capital infrastructure projects like nest protection fences such as that delivered for nesting Curlew in Donegal in early 2023.
Further details: Further information on the European Innovation Partnership initiative and the guidelines for this call for proposals can be accessed on the department website at European Innovation Partnership Scheme , or by contacting breedingwaderseip@agriculture.gov.ie.
The closing date for this call is 5 PM on the 23rd of January 2024.
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