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New agreement signed for Moorehall and Lough Carra

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SIGNING Pictured after the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding at Moore Hall were, from left: Minister of State, Malcom Noonan, TD; Mark Carlin, MD at Coilte; Cllr Michael Smyth, Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council and Kevin Kelly, CE, Mayo County Council.  Pic: Michael McLaughlin


The Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD, has welcomed the use of strategic partnerships to greater protect, develop and manage Ireland’s natural, built and cultural heritage.
The minister was in Mayo for a three day visit that included tours of Wild Nephin National Park and Ballycroy, the historic Enniscoe estate on the shores of Lough Conn and other sites. He participated in the signing of an agreements between Coillte, Mayo County Council and the National Parks and Wildlife Service to further protect and develop over 550 acres of historic estates at Moorehall, Towerhill, Clonee and Derrinrush as a strategically important nature reserve and cultural heritage attraction. 
The partnership will also allow the organisations to pursue greater funding opportunities to restore biodiverse habitats and support the restoration of the area’s built heritage in line with conservation objectives.
“Moorehall and the wider Lough Carra complex is a very special place that combines remarkable natural, built and cultural heritage. I am delighted to see Coillte, the local authority and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, coming together in a spirit of cooperation to protect these important historic estates and ensure that the heritage of the area is preserved not just for this generation but for future generations. 
“This joined up approach is necessary to meet the significant challenges being presented by climate change and the current threats facing nature, biodiversity and protected species. I would also like to congratulate Mayo County Council on the approval of the Life Lough Carra Project, in which both Coillte and the Department are associated beneficiaries. This €5 million project will focus fully on conserving habitats and species within the European site around Lough Carra and on land management practices in parts of the catchment outside the Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Area, which are having damaging effects on the sensitive marl lake habitat,” he said.
Mark Carlin, Managing Director of Coillte Forest said they are ‘excited to be a key part of the development and protection of the Moorehall area through our four forest properties’.
“We look forward to continuing our excellent working relationships with the National Parks and Wildlife Service and Mayo County Council to deliver a key project for both tourism and biodiversity which is not just for the local community but also for the entire island of Ireland,” he said.
Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Cllr Michael Smith said the partnership ‘signifies the commitment across multiple agencies’.
“The development of a strategic partnership between Mayo County Council, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and Coillte, addresses a longstanding plan to preserve and develop a very important historic landscape, house and environment. I believe this partnership presents an exceptional opportunity in the areas of tourism, public amenity and cultural development to maximise the potential of Moorehall and the wider Lough Carra area in the years ahead.”

Life Project aims to bring life back to Lough Carra

Anton McNulty

A €5 MILLION environmental project to address the biodiversity problems with Lough Carra will be the first of its kind to be developed by a local authority in Ireland.
The Lough Carra Life Project is an EU funded project co-ordinated by Mayo County Council with the support of a number of stakeholders in the area which aims to reverse the decline of biodiversity around the lake.
Lough Carra is considered unique as it is a shallow limestone marl lake but in recent years there has been a deep concern over the decline of its rich habitat.
As a result stakeholders with an interest in reversing the decline of the lake sought funding from the EU Life Project and in May they successfully secured €5 million.
Speaking at the Environment Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) meeting, Mr Martin Keating, Head of the Environment section in Mayo County Council said they hope to launch the project before the end of the year.
He described the project as ‘very exciting’ as Mayo County Council will be the first local authority in Ireland to lead such a project.
“It is putting ourselves and the local community and farmers at the cutting edge of solving a difficult environmental issue which will hopefully bring good progress,” he said.
Mayo County Council will be supported by a number of stakeholders including Coillte, the Department of Agriculture, Lough Carra Catchment Association, NPWS and the EPA.
The lake is particularly sensitive to phosphorus and Mr Keating said that what would be considered ‘good agricultural practice’ in other areas was ‘unwittingly’ causing issues for the lake.
He said the use of nutrients needs to be addressed to facilitate the lake’s recovery and bring the lake to its ‘more natural state’.
“The main actions proposed under the life programme are results-based agri environment schemes to target nutrient management and restoration of natural habitat and payments based on results,” he explained.
Mr Keating added the conversion of land around the lake into farmland has also had a negative impact on the habitat around the lake.
As a result of the aims of the Lough Carra Life Project will be the recreation of a buffer zones around the lake to absorb nutrients and to fence off access of livestock to waterways.
As well as measuring and targeting the nutrient levels, Mr Keating stated that they will also look at the conservation of other species such as the lesser horseshoe bat.
Mr Keating said they hoped to make good progress on the project and showcase the results at both national and international level in the years to come.
Cathaoirleach of the Environment SPC, Cllr Blackie Gavin, said he too was also excited by what the project can achieve and noted it was ‘great to see stakeholders work together to achieve the one goal’.

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