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New Project Promotes Nature-Based Farming to Protect Rivers and Trees

12th March 2022
Ian McCurley, director of Woodland Trust NI with Graham Warke, Mayor of Derry and Strabane District Council and Loughs Agency chief executive Sharon McMahon at the launch of the TREES project
From left: Ian McCurley, director of Woodland Trust NI with Graham Warke, Mayor of Derry and Strabane District Council and Loughs Agency chief executive Sharon McMahon at the launch of the TREES project

The Loughs Agency and Woodland Trust Northern Ireland have announced the launch of their new biodiversity project, TREES, within the Foyle and Carlingford catchment areas.

The primary aim of the TREES project is to protect and restore vital habitats for wildlife in rivers and trees.

It uses a nature-friendly solution of planting trees and creating a network of pond and dam systems which are specifically designed to manage flooding, potential pollution and nutrient run-off from farms which border vital river networks.

Ponds will be created on farmland, to hold an ample source of water which will provide a much-needed contingency, reducing the need for abstraction directly from the river. Ponds provide an additional benefit of retaining a water source on farms during periods of drought.

Areas of wet woodland are one of the most dynamic habitats and are important for a range of priority species, including salmon, otters, nesting birds, insects, bats and amphibians.

Biodiversity is a major focus for the project, with the planting of native trees sourced and grown in the UK and Ireland a priority to help ensure success.

So far, over 24 schemes are under way with the TREES project, which is on target to plant over 120,000 native broadleaf trees by the end of 2023.

Loughs Agency chief executive Sharon McMahon said: “We are delighted to be able to work with our esteemed colleagues at Woodland Trust NI on the TREES project, which will prove to be highly beneficial for the local farming community and the environment in the Foyle and Carlingford catchments.

“We are proud to be taking this proactive approach to address issues that could potentially lead to catastrophic consequences for the fisheries if left neglected.

“This partnership with landowners, farmers, and other like-minded organisations will hopefully lead to the protection of our rivers and ecosystems for years to come.”

With 8.7% tree cover in Northern Ireland and ancient woodland forming just 0.04% of that, the Woodland Trust works hard to create new woodland, and protect and restore our existing trees.

The Faughan Valley has the largest concentration of fragmented ancient woodland in Northern Ireland, and the Loughs Agency says it has been collaborating with the Woodland Trust to work with farmers whose land borders the River Faughan.

Ian McCurley, director for Woodland Trust Northern Ireland, said: “We are planting trees and woods to create resilient landscapes and a sustainable tree landscape for the future.

“The TREES project creates new woodland to protect and connect fragmented ancient woodland and to enhance havens for wildlife all resulting in a more resilient landscape for the future. We aim to support and advise landowners and the farming community.”

The new initiative will put the local farming community at its core, the Loughs Agency says, with involvement from the agricultural sector greatly encouraged to help deliver ecosystem services for the long-term benefit of rivers, habitats, environment and nearby farms.

Further information on the TREES project can be found at loughs-agency.org.

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