Minister Edwin Poots took to the waves recently in Lower Lough Erne to see some of the important work being undertaken by the RSPB to enhance breeding habitats on a number of islands.
Speaking afterwards, Mr Poots said: “Any action to help our declining populations of breeding waders, especially curlew, has to be welcomed.
“It is a significant challenge. I had the opportunity to see some of the great work being undertaken by farmers and the RSPB in Glenwherry recently which is supported by both DAERA’s Environment Fund and the Environmental Farming Scheme.
“Lough Erne is another important stronghold of these birds and the islands in particular, offer extra protection due to the reduced pressure from predators.
“The fact that we’re using a boat specially designed for the RSPB to transport livestock to the islands again underlines the vital role that appropriate agricultural management plays in helping to maintain such habitats.
“This sustained, collaborative working between farmers, organisations such as the RSPB and my department will be crucial in helping to address the environmental and climate challenges facing us in the future.”
RSPB NI manages around 40 islands in Lough Erne for biodiversity with some of the biggest challenges arising from vegetation management and a lack of grazing.
Joanne Sherwood, RSPB’s NI Director, commented: “Managing island habitats, by their very nature, present challenges.
“Breeding waders need a mosaic of short swards with taller vegetation for cover and muddy feeding areas for survival.
“Cattle grazing is essential to maintain this but only if the pressure and timing is correct.
“We’re delighted the Minister has visited both the Glenwherry uplands and Lough Erne lowlands to see these challenges and how they’re being tackled at first hand and we hope that he will consider enhancing the designation status of these important areas.
“DAERA support and funding is key to our work as is the Environmental Farming Scheme to encourage and reward farmers for their essential management role on these sites.”