The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) is calling for rewilding to be included in Ireland’s CAP Strategic Plan as an option for farmers. Rewilding is a method of restoring natural ecosystems and is perhaps the quickest, cheapest and easiest way to simultaneously address the biodiversity and climate emergency.
Rewilding involves making space for nature and is essential for restoring peatlands, native forests and river floodplains. Currently, farmers are penalised under CAP rules where they have natural habitats on their farm. Current proposals indicate that a farmer may be permitted to rewild up to 30% of their land, and while this is welcome, it does not go far enough. Where there are sound climate, water or biodiversity benefits, farmers should be incentivised to rewild 100% of their land.
Particularly in upland peatlands, farmers must be sent a clear signal that they will not be penalised for having scrub vegetation – something that has contributed to an annual illegal fire season with devastating ecological consequences. Farmers should be rewarded for developing management plans that restore native vegetation in these areas.
In our submission to the CAP Strategic Plan, the IWT also highlighted how the current proposals don’t go nearly far enough to address the multiple environmental challenges that must be addressed over the coming decade. Proposed ‘eco-schemes’, which will be mandatory for all recipients of farm subsidies, are notable for their lack of ambition and seem principally designed to keep the money flowing. Agri-environmental schemes, which are supposed to go the extra mile in terms of meeting environmental aims, are mostly lacking any clear direction or purpose. This is astonishing given that previous schemes have all failed to address the biodiversity crisis for this very reason.
In addition to rewilding, the IWT has suggested that specific measures be included to reward farmers who manage good quality hedgerows, eliminate artificial nitrogen and move to regenerative techniques, create water storage areas in natural flood plains, manage invasive species and deer or create new native woodlands.
IWT campaign officer, Pádraic Fogarty, says: “The CAP is a phenomenal amount of taxpayers money that has left a legacy of pollution, extinction and ecological destruction. We have an opportunity now to move to a decade of renewal and regeneration that will not only help nature but farmers and wider society which is ultimately paying for these schemes.”