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Lough Carra LIFE Project Formally Launched

Date: 18-05-2023

The Lough Carra LIFE Project was officially launched at the Belcarra Community Centre, Co. Mayo, on Monday 15th May, by Minister of State Malcolm Noonan.

This is a five-year project aiming to improve the water quality of Lough Carra, one of Europe’s premier Marl Lakes, and restore the other varied habitats in the lake’s catchment area.

Lough Carra LIFE is coordinated by Mayo County Council and is the first European Commission LIFE Project in Ireland to be coordinated by a Local Authority.

The project has an overall budget of €5m and is jointly funded, under grant agreement LIFE20 NAT/IE/000172, by the European Commission LIFE Programme and the Project Beneficiary Partners; Mayo County Council, the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine, National Parks and Wildlife Services, Geological Survey Ireland, Coillte, and the Lough Carra Catchment Association.

In addition to the Beneficiary Partners, a long list of other associated partners are providing essential guidance and support to the project. These include Teagasc, Local Authority Waters Programme, Inland Fisheries Ireland, Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Public Works, Vincent Wildlife Trust, Joyce Country and Western Lakes Geopark, and National Federation of Group Water Schemes.

The Project Team and Partners will work closely with farmers, landowners, community groups, and other stakeholders in the catchment area to achieve the project goals.

The Project will deliver on a comprehensive programme of actions over the next five years, including:

  1. A Groundwater study of the Lough Carra catchment.
  2. A pilot Results Based Agri-environment Scheme specifically adapted for the Lough Carra catchment.
  3. The restoration of woodlands, wetlands, and drains in the catchment.
  4. Habitat enhancement for key species, and controls on invasive species.
  5. A monitoring programme of project impacts.
  6. Knowledge exchange, public outreach, and awareness campaign.

Speaking at the event Minister of State Malcolm Noonan said:“This project has the distinction of being the first LIFE Project of its type in Ireland to be coordinated by a Local Authority and I wish to congratulate Mayo County Council for taking the lead on it.

“It is my hope that it will provide an example to other Local Authorities to manage LIFE Projects for Nature and Biodiversity, and indeed other EU funded conservation programmes in the future.

“Lough Carra LIFE is an example of how organised local communities can take action on environmental issues and achieve environmental conservation successes at a grass roots level.

“And on this point, I wish to single out the Lough Carra Catchment Association, which was established to conserve and improve the lake. It has done huge work in the area in recent years and has been central to the conception and establishment of the Project. Support from local communities will be at the heart of the project and central to its success. Just as Lough Carra is at the heart of this community, providing a range of ecosystem services”.

Cllr Seamus Weir, Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council,  pointed out that the Lough Carra LIFE project has been several years in its development, and is an example of how local communities can build partnerships with local authorities, government bodies, and a broad range of local stakeholders to drive policy changes from a grass roots level.

Kevin Kelly, Chief Executive of Mayo County Council added that Mayo is currently a hotspot for collaboratively funded projects of this type focused on environmental conservation and climate action.

Other examples include Wild Atlantic Nature, Corncrake LIFE, LIFE on Machair, Joyce Country & Western Lakes Geopark, and the Climate Action Regional Office. Mayo County Council hope to act as an example to other local authorities to inspire future projects of this type to be driven by local communities and coordinated by local authorities.

Project Manager Kieran Flynn highlighted Lough Carra as a rare and exceptional habitat which is in decline due to the pressures of modern land management practices, and without intervention will be lost to future generations.

He thanked all the project partners, stakeholders, and the local community for their support to date, and looks forward to their continued support through the course of the project.

The formal Project Launch was followed by an Open Day with stalls and information displays managed by project partners. This Open Day was well attended by local schools and the public.

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