Lapwing numbers have fallen in Northern Ireland
Environmentalists have urged the government to use reform of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy to help protect Northern Ireland's countryside.
A coalition of eight organisations, representing more than 100,000 members, said
adequate funding must be found to enable two thirds of the province's Ireland farmland to enter EU agri-environmental schemes.
It called on the Department of Agriculture to provide leadership by
encouraging farmers to enter into such schemes.
The group said current farm subsidies had prioritised production at the
expense of the environment but changes to the CAP signalled a change in
"We are proposing a win-win situation," said Aidan Lonergan, Director of the
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
"Wildlife has suffered drastically under the previous CAP regime with
The group said current farm subsidies were at the expense of environment
The RSPB said wildlife on farms had declined drastically over the last 30
years due to intensification.
Lapwing and yellowhammer numbers have fallen by more than 65% and the corncrake is now extinct in Northern Ireland.
In many areas of intensive farmland, there are no butterflies or grasshoppers left, and many wild flowers, including the primrose, have disappeared.
Mr Lonergan said there was a real opportunity to ensure the countryside was
safeguarded for future generations.
"Agri-environment schemes or farming subsidies which give parity to the
environment as well as production, are the best way of ensuring that farmers are
properly rewarded for providing food while simultaneously safeguarding the
environment," he said.
At the moment there are more than 7,000 farmers participating in
environmentally-friendly schemes, with almost 3,000 of those in the Countryside
Mr Lonergan added: "With some imagination everyone could make tremendous
gains from this review of CAP. We look to the government to listen to the public
and provide leadership," he added.