ACRES Co-operation Update
The Hen Harrier Project Team have been building up for the roll out of the new ACRES Scheme. Over the past nine months we have recruited new staff, up from 5 to 26 with new people joining the team almost every month. We have established new offices in Manorhamilton and Tralee, in addition to our home base in Oranmore. A further office will open in Wicklow next month and a fifth is planned for Waterford/ South Tipperary later in the summer. The new staff all bring their own skill sets to the team, we now have a range of expertise including Agricultural Scientists, Ornithologists, archaeologists, data analysts, drone pilots, environmental scientists and project managers.
All of the staff have undergone further training including mountain skills, remote emergency care, peatland restoration, basic archaeology, hydrology, and community engagement. Over the past 6 weeks the team have been busy preparing the maps for advisors to use in the habitat assessment campaign this summer. All the farmers in ACRES Leinster have been completed along with approx. 80% in ACRES Munster South Connacht and 35% in ACRES Breifne. We expect to have Munster/ South Connacht finished by the end of this week and ACRES Breifne by the 5th or 6th of May. We have also been working with DAFM and the other project teams designing the scorecards used to assess habitats and develop specifications for the 80 actions that will make up the Non Productive Investments and Landscape Actions part of ACRES. This work is now almost complete.
The focus will soon move to commonage assessments, advisor training and community outreach. In fact the commonage assessments has already started with the initial aerial survey completed for 4,000 ha. Advisor training will have to wail until the BISS application period finishes on May 29th but we hope to start rolling out open days for farmers well in advance of that.