The Blackstairs Farming Group is a working group formed in 2014 to investigate the potential for a Locally Led Agri-environment Project in Mount Leinster and The Blackstairs.
Following the success of the Burren LIFE project, an innovative model where farmers of low intensity farmland are rewarded for the delivery of ecosystem services, the 2014-2020 Rural Development Programme included a measure to support a number of Locally Led Agri-environment Projects using a similar farmer led approach to that in the Burren. The inclusion of the conservation/ restoration of upland peats as a specific theme for this measure offered a particular opportunity for hill farmers in Mount Leinster and The Blackstairs.
There is a long history of farming the slopes of Mount Leinster and The Blackstairs and farming has shaped this major natural attraction; rich in cultural and natural heritage. A range of social and economic factors have led to changes in how these uplands are farmed and how they fit into the modern farming enterprise. Farmers are faced with many challenges in grazing the uplands in an efficient and sustainable manner. The decline in traditional hill sheep farming and management practices threaten the important wildlife of these areas and a locally led agri-environment project offers an opportunity to overcome these challenges in a way that suits local people. You can follow the forum on the management of irish uplands
In April 2015 the European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism (EFNCP) who are involved in the development of other Locally Led Agri-environment Projects in Ireland, offered the Blackstairs Farming Group technical support to develop a project in Mount Leinster and The Blackstairs. In addition to support from project partner the EFNCP; The Heritage Council, Carlow County Council and Wexford County Council have also contributed to the project, the initial phase of which will be complete by December 2015.