Boleybrack Red Grouse and Upland Conservation Group


Boleybrack Red Grouse and Upland Conservation Group

“Three local gun club members wanted to ensure their children knew what a red grouse looked like. A project of European importance sprang from that wish.”


1 Contact: John Carslake, Project Manager, Glenboy House, Glenboy, Co Leitrim. Mobile: +353 (0) 87 7907321 / Email:


2 Territory: Boleybrack Mountain lies to the north of Lough Allen in Co Leitrim and Cavan. The area is defined by the towns of Drumkeeran, Manorhamilton and Blacklion (in west Cavan). The mountain is horseshoe shaped with steep sides rising to an extensive plateau summit. The project site covers 1800 hectares mostly unfenced commonage. The townlands of Glenfarne are the key community. From a broader communities perspective it should be viewed as a triangle taking in Manorhamilton, Balcklion and Dowra embracing Glenfarne.  The highest peak is Lackagh at 546m. The area is a designated SAC. Coillte manage some of the peripheral planting on the edges of the commonage.  [Note: It is hoped to expand the area to include the whole of Boleybrack Mountain in the near future.]


3 Founded: 2007 (Steering Group formed)


4 Genesis: The project came from an initiative of Glenfarne Gun Club which focused on the endangered Red Grouse and related conservation issues. The National Parts and Wildlife Service were essential supporters of the project from the outset. As the territory is primarily upland commonage it was importance that the farming community were on board. Over time the National Association of Regional Game Councils (NARGC) came in behind the project. The Golden Eagle Trust was involved from the outset as they were tasked with writing the initial Habitat Management Plan.


5 Vision: The Boleybrack Mountain Upland Conservation Project aims to enhance, monitor and demonstrate a set of modern, practical and sustainable management policies for an Irish mountain commonage, based on traditional farming methods and its associated wildlife richness.

6 Key Objectives:–  To ensure that the potential benefits of hill farming practices on mountain commonages, on Boleybrack Mountain and elsewhere, are better understood, recognised and rewarded by society and decision makers nationally; To restore a greater balance of management influences on the mountain, in order to help re-invigorate or re-establish many of its former key upland species, in particular ground nesting birds such as Red Grouse, Breeding Waders and Hen Harriers and; To increase the landscape value of our locality in order to enhance the welfare of our community in general.



7 Structure & Staff:  The key partners on the Steering Group fall into three categories namely community, NGO’s / special interest groups and government department / agencies. They include:- Glenfarne Gun Club, the NARGC, Golden Eagle Trust, NPWS, IT Sligo, Department of Agriculture, Coillte, and the Glenfarne Commonage Farmers. The Steering Group operates successfully without a Chair. A second Habitat Management Plan was drafted and accepted in 2014. In terms of evolution the project can be seen as Yr1-5 / local people and partners working hard on a small number of specific tasks, Yr 5-8 the project went national involving more partners and more controls / administration and Yr 9 and beyond the project is now recognised on the EU stage as being one of eight EU wide good conservation practice through hunting communities projects. Employment of a full time Gamekeeper/Project Manager in 2012.


8 Operational Management: This is a project and geography specific informally constituted group. They have a full time Project Manager who initially joined the project as a gamekeeper following many years experience in England and Scotland. He is the only upland grouse gamekeeper in Ireland. The partners also offer agreed administration and other practical supports. In order to ensure there is full community ‘ownership’ of the project the manager has formal bi-weekly meetings with representatives of the Gun Club. By way of anecdote in the early days of the project it used to take the Project Manager up to 90mins to get to work, a journey of 15mins, owing to the number of conversations he would have with local people. The Steering Group meets about 3 times per year. [Note: the Project Manager post is co-funded by the NPWS and the NARGC who also provide the contract of employment.]


9 Annual Core Budget: 50k [Note: Additional funding come in through project specific activity e.g Heritage Council support for a television documentary currently bring produced.]


10 Sample Programming: Heather Management – Preparation for burning / controlled burning; Fox Control –  Middens, Snaring and Lamping; Corvid Control – Larsen traps, Cage traps, Nest shooting and Roost shooting; Monitoring Red Grouse and other upland species – Use GPS to record species of flora and fauna present on Boleybrack Mountain, Red grouse pair counts with dogs (April), Red grouse pair counts with tape lure, Red grouse brood counts with dogs, Establish red grouse territories, survey Golden Plover, monitor all birds of prey sightings and identify nest sites; Site Patrolling – Minimise human disturbance by patrolling Boleybrack & access routes; Background Red Grouse Research – Establish extent of Heather Beetle damage, Establish the health of Grouse by collection and analysis of faecal droppings, Pinpoint grouse nests and establish clutch, Establish and provision a lattice work of Grit Station across the mountain; Public Relations & Education – Maintain strong liaison with local people and commonage shareholders, Glenfarne Gala Weekend, national school visits, Promote the project at regional / national levels and through events such as National Game Fairs, Issue and facilitate regular media updates and; Advocacy – Project open days, Facilitate and initiate Red Grouse consultation visits and reports nationally, Promotion of best practice in Red Grouse and upland wildlife management, Promote best practice re: predator, pest and parasite control, Promote best practice re: habitat management especially muirburn.


11 Some Practical Problems Encountered: Lack of manpower and resources … one person is ‘doing the work of 2.5 people’; Year on year funding makes planning difficult; Migration from the upland and loss of the upland way of life; We have no web site and a poorly managed FB page, this need to become a higher priority.


12 Some Unresolved Issues: We need more good science, we need to know more about the biodiversity to better understand the risks that lie ahead; We need to re-learn old traditional skills relating to the mountains for if they are lost by this generation they are likely lost forever.


13 Lessons Learned: The mountain is such a loved place, local people have so many different names for it;  In the 8 years the project has been running we have ‘only come across good people, there are no bad apples’; Remain open minded to new ideas and problem solving; Keeping good people on board; The need for open / transparent communication is essential; Everything in Ireland takes ‘time’; How useful the drip drip effect can be in terms of influencing people e.g good habitat management through evolving controlled burning; Don’t forget your core constituency e.g. annual visits to the local national school and; The project found the first heather beetle in Ireland.


14 Work Profile: Conservation Management 50%; Engagement and Communications 35%; Administration 15%



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