Blackstairs farming Futures (BFF) Sustainable farming project in the Blackstairs Mountains

Total budget: 1,500,000

Main funding sourceRural development 2014-2020 for Operational Groups (in the sense of Art 56 of Reg.1305/2013)
Project typeOperational group
Starting date2018
End date2023
Project statusOngoing

Objective of the project : 

The project objective is to adopt innovative approaches to add value to the Blackstairs hill farming system whilst simultaneously improving habitat condition.

The Blackstairs Farming Futures (BFF) EIP pilot proposes to develop and trial four innovations:

A Results Based Agri-Environment Payment Scheme for upland habitats and commonage land.

An effective commonage governance model for Ireland.

Habitat management for red grouse and wider upland biodiversity by commonage farmers in the Blackstairs.

Wider community engagement in the environment, culture and tradition of farming in the Uplands.

The project activities are:

Results Based Element – Rewarding good habitat condition on semi-natural habitats using a scoring system based on results indicators.

Complementary Actions – trialling best practice techniques where needed to improve habitat quality to including targeted fencing; Bracken control; Targeted grazing aids; Scrub Management; Invasive species control; Possible re-introduction of cattle; Managed burning programme; Nest protection; Improved access; protection and enhancement of cultural features.

Training and awareness-raising – Available to all potential participants and farm advisors on an on-going basis; wider public engagement and dissemination.

The Blackstairs Mountains SAC extends to 5,000 ha of open mountain on the border of counties Carlow and Wexford. It contains 17% of Ireland’s European Dry Heath habitat. Research carried out for the Blackstairs Farming Group in 2015 confirmed only c. 50% reduction in farm holders under the age of 44 in Electoral Districts surrounding the Blackstairs Mountains. Data on farm viability indicates a high proportion of unsustainable farms in the Blackstairs area. This combination of an aging farmer population and low farm incomes pose a threat to the achievement of favourable status of the semi-natural habitats and associated species in the Blackstairs Mountains SAC. The project objective is to adopt innovative approaches to add value to the Blackstairs hill farming system whilst simultaneously improving habitat condition. Additional information: 

The expected results and practical recommendations from the project are:

High quality peatland habitats with enhanced carbon sequestration

Maintenance and improvement of associated semi-natural habitats

Improved habitat conditions for red grouse and other upland bird species

Increased resilience to climate change

Improved water quality

Improved soil quality

A developed RBAPS which can be applied to other similar upland peat habitats

A workable model for commonage governance and management in Ireland

An empowered, engaged and innovative hill farming community seeking to develop other projects of common interest to sustain their community and way of life

Greater awareness of the value of hill farming and of biodiversity on the mountain

Wider social cohesion and community benefit

Improved upland farm viability

A range of guidelines will be produced from the project providing practical recommendations on all of these results to support replication.

Contact person: Blackstairs Farming Group

Address: Martin Shannon, Rathanna, Borris, Co Carlow


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