Thursday, 4 March 2004

Questions (135)

Trevor Sargent

Question:

131 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will report on the research project called Linnet. [7309/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

The intensification of agriculture over the past half century has led to radical changes in land use, including the loss of the small cereal plots, particularly oats, that used to be grown on most small-holdings for animal feed and thatching. This in turn has resulted in the loss or serious decline of several bird species, notably the corn bunting, now extinct in Ireland as a breeding species, the yellowhammer, the grey partridge and the tree sparrow, and of characteristic plants such as the corn cockle and the cornflower, as well as a wider loss of biodiversity including insects.

Between 2000 and 2003, staff of the national parks and wildlife service of my Department piloted a project to address this loss by planting small plots of oats and linseed on State property and managing them for wildlife. The results of these trials were encouraging and, on that basis, a proposal has been put to the Department of Agriculture and Food for inclusion of such plots as an option in the revised REP scheme, with a view to achieving nationwide distribution of these plots.

A seminar reviewing the success of the project was held in January 2003, with international participation to enable comparison with similar efforts elsewhere. The proceedings of this seminar will be published shortly and I will arrange for a copy of the publication to be sent to the Deputy as soon as it becomes available.