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Cuts threaten Lough Erne curlews

Last modified: 01 April 2015

Calling curlew

Image: Nigel Blake

RSPB NI is warning that 100% cuts to the Natural Heritage Grants Programme will have a devastating effect on nature and the environment.

The cuts, which were rumoured before Christmas and confirmed last week, leave many groups and charities in a perilous position, with the potential for up to 130 compulsory redundancies across the eNGO sector and some organisations having to close their doors altogether.

The RSPB is faCing a cut of £150,000 annually to its reserves and education programmes and is now worried about the effect on the Northern Irish landscape and the wildlife that make their homes there.

The landscape of Fermanagh is one of the most beautiful in Northern Ireland, but it is also one of the last strongholds for curlew in the whole of Ireland. Loss of habitat in the wider countryside has seen this bird suffer long-term declines and become a red-listed bird in Ireland.

The RSPB manages over 40 islAnds as part of its Lower Lough Erne Islands reserve, creating and maintaining habitat not only for curlews, but for lapwings and redshanks as well. Thanks to work by the RSPB and local landowners, 2014 saw 47 pairs of curlew recorded on the reserve and a fantastic 68 per cent of those pairs hatched chicks. The reserve now holds around ten per cent of the all-Ireland breeding population of this species, but this work is now under threat due to the funding cuts.

Fermanagh Area Manager for RSPB NI, Brad Robson, said: “The sad reality is that the loss of this money may prevent us from managing some of the best sites in Ireland for curlews and this may cause their decline to become terminal, meaning the bird becomes locally extinct in a matter of years.

“Funding from the Natural Heritage Grants Programme has been fundamental in making sure that Lough Erne provides homes for these severely threatened birds. There is now a real risk that this work can no longer be carried out. Without proper management, the habitat will be at risk and we may lose some of these birds altogether.”

 

The charity is urging the public to make their voices heard by tweeting or writing to the Environment Minister or their local MLA to ensure that nature is protected.

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