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Talks on the future of our countryside

Last modified: 11 December 2009

RSPB Lower Lough Erne nature reserve, County Fermanagh

The RSPB said today that ‘joint action’ is needed across Northern Ireland to react to the impacts of climate change and to ensure the countryside is managed sustainably for future generations.  

At an event attended by politicians, landowners, organisations and government officials, the wildlife charity unveiled its ‘Futurescapes’ project, showcasing best practice and encouraging a partnership approach to address the challenges facing our countryside. 

The RSPB’s NI Director, Dr James Robinson, said, “’Futurescapes’ is the RSPB’s vision for a thriving countryside.  The idea is to manage landscapes sustainably so that we can help wildlife build resilience to climate change, by managing or restoring important habitats and integrating our best wildlife sites into the wider countryside.  We can do this by working together across large landscapes to deliver sustainable land management.  

“There are major benefits for people by improving our countryside at a landscape-scale” Dr Robinson continued.  “We depend on the wider countryside for fuel, food, fibre, water and places to live; working with nature can provide sustainable public goods and services. One critical example is water management - the restoration of wetland areas can help improve water quality and provide vital floodwater storage to help reduce rural and urban flooding.  Another is responding to climate change: the release of carbon into the atmosphere contributes to global warming but peatland areas can provide natural storage for carbon as well as water.  These practical benefits are in addition to the massive health and well-being benefits that people get when they have access to beautiful landscapes.” 

The RSPB aims to identify new ‘Futurescapes’ projects in Northern Ireland in partnership with farmers, landowners, organisations and government agencies, where integration of sustainable land management is possible.  The seminar today will be followed by meetings with key people to develop agreements on how landscape-scale habitat management will be delivered. 

Attending today's event, Environment Minister Edwin Poots said: “Managing our countryside is something that is important for the future of Northern Ireland and more needs to be done to address biodiversity loss. 

“Landscape scale habitat management being promoted through the ‘Futurescapes’ work can achieve real benefits for both people and wildlife.  Habitats and species will benefit but there will also be wider ecosystem benefits for the sustainable use of our countryside for agriculture, water management and carbon storage. I am pleased to be able to support this work but know that the success of this project will depend on a close partnership between Government departments, landowners and other stakeholders." 

The RSPB has agreed that the most critical factor for the project’s success is partnership.  “The RSPB can’t do this alone,” said the wildlife charity’s Dr Robinson.  “Tackling our economic, social and environmental challenges will involve a huge joint effort, so today we are bringing together some of the key players to discuss how we can take this forward. 

“At the RSPB we have extensive experience managing land for species and important habitats, but the ‘Futurescapes’ project increases the scale of this work to include the expertise of others; by working together we can make a much bigger difference to both wildlife and people.”

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