Halting Environmental Loss Project (HELP) (Halting Environmenta..)
Halting Environmental Loss Project (HELP)
Start date: Aug 31, 2010,
End date: Dec 30, 2014
The project seeks to halt biodiversity loss for key species in eligible areas of NI, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland. A variety of approaches will be used from appropriate on the ground management with subsequent management through to people engagement and education a some key sites. combination Achievements: HELP which is a trilateral project aims to maintain and expand the population and range of breeding waders, chough and corncrake in key areas across Northern Ireland, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland and to maintain and encourage expansion of populations on non-avian Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) species associated with the above avian BAP species.Specifically, this project seeks to tackle worrying declines of targeted UKBAP species across the identified areas. A holistic approach to species recovery will be delivered through a cross border programme of strategic habitat management, monitoring and survey work, advisory and demonstration events and awareness-raising activities.· Make a locally and nationally significant contribution towards the delivery of priority UKBAP targets, in helping halt and reverse current declines of target UKBAP species within project areas;· Champion successful conservation management techniques to promote the sustainable recovery of UKBAP wetland species across border countries of Northern Ireland and Ireland:· Establish a mechanism for information sharing to disseminate successfully tried and tested approaches in Scotland, to aid isolated species clusters in Northern Ireland and Ireland;· Promote wildlife tourism through awareness raising activities and promote biodiversity’s critical role in providing a sustainable and diversifying source of income generation for wider rural communities;· Boost long term awareness and appreciation for biodiversity through face to face engagement and a programme of guided walks and talks. HELP will maximise the significant wildlife tourism potential within the target areas, growing a new and sustainable income source to deliver long term benefits for local rural economies.This project is well progressed and already reporting a number of key achievements as follows:Make a locally and nationally significant contribution towards the delivery of priority UKBAP targets, in helping halt and reverse current declines of target UKBAP species within project areas - Since the start of HELP in 2011, the overall number of breeding waders in HELP areas in NI has increased by approximately 52%, (46% without redshank). Set against a background of an 83% decline¹ in breeding curlew, lapwing and snipe across NI since 1987, the HELP results to date are extremely encouraging and highlight what can be achieved when targeted habitat management advice is given to farmers. Quotes from farmers and stakeholders include:• “It’s great to see the peesweeps (lapwings) gathering up again.”• “The habitat looks the best I’ve seen it in more than thirty years.”• “Conservation is frequently linked to bad news but this work has been a positive revelation.”Champion successful conservation management techniques to promote the sustainable recovery of UKBAP wetland species across border countries of Northern Ireland and Ireland - Work done by RSPB NI and BirdWatch Ireland to champion successful conservation management techniques is yielding promising results on RSPB Reserves on Lower Lough Erne, on HELP sites in Northern Ireland and on traditional wader sites in Donegal. Work done to date includes:• Encouraging farmers, both those in and outwith agri-environment schemes, to actively enhance and manage their land through rush cutting, implementing appropriate grazing levels, scrub cutting, predator fence erection and water level management.• Managing areas directly owned by RSPB and by others for breeding waders through actions including rush cutting, predator control, scrub clearance.• Fencing machair habitat, managing predators, controlling scrub and managing water levels in curlew breeding areas in Donegal.Establish a mechanism for information sharing to disseminate successfully tried and tested approaches in Scotland, to aid isolated species clusters in Northern Ireland and Ireland - A very successful programme of information sharing events, including site visits, presentations and posters at international conferences, newsletters and papers has been delivered to date. RSPB NI has received expert advice from RSPB Scotland and BirdWatch on managing the habitat on Rathlin to attract corncrake from the Western Isles and Donegal. Feedback on the events includes:• ‘These events are exceedingly useful for sharing knowledge, seeing work on the ground and forming a group that can discuss and exchange knowledge long after the event itself.’• ‘Ultimately you go away with ideas on things you might do differently in your own projects, whilst providing recommendations for the hosts' projects.’• ‘Visits to other jurisdictions make you realize that you are getting it right in your own area and help you to explore new ideas. The ancillary advantage is the morale boost.’Boost long term awareness and appreciation for biodiversity through face to face engagement and a programme of guided walks and talks. HELP will maximise the significant wildlife tourism potential within the target areas, growing a new and sustainable income source to deliver long term benefits for local rural economies - Visitors to the HELP walks and talks on the Argyll Islands complete a survey. The following results were obtained:• 96% of people said that they had learnt something new.• 83% said that they were more likely to revisit the Argyll Islands or a similar area.• 25% of visitors were more interested in wildlife after their RSPB led wildlife activity.The Colonsay Community Information & Tourism Officer (CITO) has become an integral part of the island visitors’ experience offering 130 walks or events each year and to 640 people in 2013. Events include rock pooling, moth trapping and seal watching.HELP is being delivered during a recession and as a result it has been difficult to maximize tourism potential. Because of the recession, tourism bookings are down considerably, but reports from Caledonian MacBrayne for 2012 show passenger increases to Islay and Jura of c. 1.4% - the only Calmac route to do so - all others show a drop in passenger traffic. Calmac figures for spring 2013 suggest that tourist numbers to Islay are up 2.43% on the year – continuing to buck the trend elsewhere in their network.RSPB’s presence at 2 National bird fairs, selling the wildlife experience and the HELP walks and talks programme, garnered reports of immediate bookings.Some comments on the walks and talks:• Excellent walk - pitched just right with lots of good general conservation advice/guidance for the average visitor. Thank you.• It’s a very important project. I think it’s very interesting that you are economic focused. Good luck, thanks (From Spain)HELP has been really beneficial in creating and facilitating working relationship between the three countries. Wildlife and landscapes do not obey political boundaries, so it has been excellent to be able to visit similar habitats, within other jurisdictions, where management is more advanced and lessons have been learnt.The ability to learn from what has been trialed elsewhere has saved time and resources. The proffering of and cross- pollination of ideas that takes place on cross border visits has been invaluable. Potential new projects and partnerships have already been highlighted – examples include RSPB NI working with National Parks & Wildlife Service in the Republic of Ireland on management of a wetland site at Inch, BirdWatch Ireland exploring the potential for a tern project with RSPB Scotland and RSPB NI highlighting the dire numbers of breeding waders in historic sites and being able to provide the catalyst for North Ireland Environment Agency to commission a Northern Ireland wide survey. These collaborations would not have happened without HELP.The results of providing habitat management advice to farmers in Northern Ireland has been so successful that RSPB NI has asked RSPB HQ to consider setting aside resources to maintain its Project Officers whilst a more permanent solution can be found. RSPB NI is exploring other sources of non EU and EU funding so that it can continue to give habitat management advice to farmers. The engagement with farmers has been so well received and farmers have been so willing to do work on the ground, that it is hoped that farmers will continue to manage their breeding wader habitats with less advisory input in the future. The Community Information &Tourism Officer (CITO) work has been so successful, that RSPB Scotland has decided to extend the work on the Isle of Islay post HELP and into 2014. Future employment of CITOs, post 2014, will depend on availability of RSPB funds and / or external funding.
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