Farmers participating in a scheme to save the endangered hen harrier received payments totalling €10 million over six years, of which €920,595 was paid in the last two years. However, despite this financial support, populations of hen harriers in Ireland continued to decline. Their numbers fell 8.7% in the last five years to between 108-157 breeding pairs.
Farmers have complained that hen harrier designation devalues their land by negating its suitability for planting trees or developing wind farms. Participation in the hen harrier scheme also limits actions such as drainage works and gorse burning, with consultation between farmers and site-specific management plans in some cases. The initial hen harrier scheme closed in 2010 and supported just 377 successful applicants due to budgetary issues.
Irish Farmers with Designated Land (IFDL) estimates that 169,000 hectares owned by 4,400 families has lost €980m in value because of its protected status. They say un-designated land is worth €4000/acre while designation reduces this value to €1000/acre.
National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS) and Department of Agriculture personnel will be hoping for improved results with a new €35m hen harrier and freshwater pearl mussel scheme, currently being developed for farmers in certain regions.
Hen harriers are medium-sized raptors known for their dramatic skydance mating routine. They live and breed in boggy uplands. They rely on open scrub and marshes for their hunting and nesting grounds, but drainage works and conifer forestry plantations have considerably reduced their ranges, and their prey. Other moorland species like red grouse, curlews and cuckoos have also declined for the same reason.