Traditional sheep grazing under threat - Ritchie
TRADITIONAL sheep grazing on the Mourne Mountains could be under threat after NI Water revealed plans to open tender all its grazing, the local MP has warned.
South Down SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie MP said she had recently met with a number of farmers who graze the Mourne Mountains and was alarmed to learn that NI Water intend to put out to open tender all of its grazing on some of the peaks in the Mourne Mountains.
“This change in NI Water Policy to put out to open tender grazing on the three peaks, Butter Mountain, Slieve Loughshannagh and Slieve Meelbeg, would appear to be financially motivated, as no environmental or health benefits have been put forward,” Ms Ritchie said.
“Placing grazing in the Mournes in an open tender exercise and bringing in a business system to manage the grazing of the delicate environment of the Mourne Mountains could put at risk the delicate environment of the Mountains, which has been protected and enhanced by the experienced grazing system of Mourne farmers, and their families over many generations.
“Only certain flocks of sheep will settle on the Mountains, so it is unclear as to who NI Water intend to attract with open tender, apart from the farmers who have had direct experience of the Mountains and already graze the area. Local farmers fear this new system will result in an increase in grazing fees and they may in turn lose important subsidy payments. I support the farmers in their quest to retain unimpeded grazing rights without restriction.”
Ms Ritchie said that if NI Water want to provide security for the future environment of the Mourne Mountains and ensure that it continues to be successfully grazed and the eco-system maintained, she would urge that they review the decision to introduce this open tender exercise.
“I will be meeting with the Chief Executive of NI Water Mr Trevor Haslett in the next few days to raise this issue, and seek a resolution that will protect the rights of local farmers,” she added.
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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Temperature: 10 C to 15 C
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