Restoration work by Ulster Wildlife well underway on Cuilcagh Mountain

Upland habitat on Cuilcagh Mountain, one of our most valuable natural heritage assets, is under restoration by Ulster Wildlife in partnership with local landowners funded through the Interreg VA Programme managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).

Thursday, 3rd June 2021, 8:27 am
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This innovative work is being undertaken on the iconic mountain through CANN (Collaborative Action for the Natura Network).

Gina McIntyre, CEO of SEUPB, recently visited the mountain.

Welcoming the work completed to date, Gina said:“We are experiencing a climate and biodiversity crisis, which threatens our precious, shared habitats and priority species. This excellent project involves cross-border collaboration, which is highly effective in delivering conservation and restoration work that will make a real difference now and, in the future, as we move towards net-zero carbon.

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“Environmental protection will also feature strongly in the new PEACE PLUS Programme, through Theme 5, ‘Supporting a Sustainable and Better-Connected Future’. This theme recognises that our natural environment is one of our most important assets and makes a major contribution to people having long, healthy and active lives.”

Ulster Wildlife is delivering practical conservation and restoration work to protect Cuilcagh’s rare peatland habitats and species. The work is an essential part of the journey towards net-zero Carbon and averting the current biodiversity crisis. It is funded by the INTERREG VA Programme, with match-funding from DAERA in Northern Ireland and the DHPLG in Ireland.

Cuilcagh Mountain SAC boasts the second largest expanse of blanket bog in Northern Ireland and is home to rare wildlife, including red grouse and golden plover.

It is also a RAMSAR wetland of international importance, an Area of Special Scientific Interest and part of the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark, supporting significant recreation and tourism in Fermanagh and Cavan.

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The suite of restoration and conservation works being delivered on Cuilcagh are designed to help bring the habitats back into a healthy condition.

Local farmers, John Sheridan and Aidan and Terry McGovern are working in partnership with Ulster Wildlife to repair and restore bare, eroded areas of peat on a commonage with agreement from their fellow graziers. This restoration work is carefully planned using data collected from a drone using LiDAR followed by hydrological analysis to ensure the appropriate techniques are used to restore the Blanket Bog.

Work is also being completed by local father and son landowners John and Gary McNulty, to help re-wet the bog by blocking over 4.5km of drains across the site. Wet, actively-growing bogs capture carbon and help to tackle climate change.

A bog that is drying out is also more vulnerable to wildfire, and historically uncontrolled burning has previously damaged the site.

Pamela and Gina speaking to Simon site manager.

World-leading wildfire experts, the Pau Costa Foundation, in partnership with Ulster Wildlife, have produced a cross-border, landscape-scale wildfire management plan working with local stakeholders.

This will pinpoint critical areas for management to reduce the risk and damage of wildfires in the future.

Visitor pressure has also damaged rare and sensitive vegetation. Habitat restoration has taken place on the sensitive montane heath at the top of the mountain, and light touch path work completed to alleviate further damage.

During the visit, Jennifer Fulton, CEO of Ulster Wildlife, recognised the interest, enthusiasm and commitment shown by local landowners: “Farmers have a vital role to play as stewards of Cuilcagh Mountain, ensuring its rare habitats and species are cared for and protected for current and future generations.

“By blocking drains to rewet the peat so that it sequesters carbon and by carefully re-profiling bare eroded peat, they have taken the first steps on the journey towards net-zero carbon.

“This also improves the biodiversity value of the area.”