Dáil Éireann - Volume 507 - 01 July, 1999

Written Answers. - Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

26. Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the way in which the REP [887] scheme has worked in the preservation of wildlife and the growth of gamebird species on mountain ranges and hills due to reduction of sheep numbers resulting in more feeding opportunities for this wildlife. [16950/99]

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh): REP plans set out in detail the existing habitats on each farm when the agri-environmental plan is drawn up. The plan also sets out the course of action to be taken by the REPS participant over the five year period of the plan to maintain and develop such habitats.

In relation to the effects of the reduction in sheep numbers the position is that one of the main purposes of the new supplementary measure A of the REP scheme is to address the problems of overgrazing in commonages. Under the measure, framework plans have to be drawn up for all commonages and these plans will set out the sustainable stocking levels of sheep on each commonage. Pending the completion of these plans an interim national framework plan has been drawn up. In six western counties where commonages were deemed to be overgrazed, the interim framework plan provides for the destocking of mountain ewes equivalent to 30 per cent of quota.

As the destocking took place only in December 1998, it is too early to ascertain the regenerative effect on the habitat and the growth in the number of gamebirds.

It is expected that the evaluation of the REP scheme which is nearing completion will provide some indicators on the benefits of the scheme to the environment. It is proposed to put in place a plan for the ongoing monitoring of the scheme in the period 2000-06 and for periodic evaluations of the scheme during that period.