“We are doing not complaining.”
1. Contact: Matt Ryan, Recess, Templederry, Nenagh, Co Tipperary. Mobile: +353 (0) 87 2720746 / Email: email@example.com
2. Territory: Tipperary Mid-West. A mountain range located between the perimeter towns of Nenagh, Thurlas, Tipperary Town and east of Limerick. The regions highest peak is Slieve Ciamalta / Keeper Hill at 694m. In total the area comprises approximately 50k hectare. A network of small towns and villages provide personality to Slieve Felim these include Newport, Toor, Killoscully, Silvermines, Templederry, Borrisoleigh, Milestone, Hollyford, Cappawhite, Kilcommon, Curreeny, Rearcross and Murroe. The area has lush fertile plains and significant sitka afforestation ascending to raised and blanket bog and plateaus of deep moorland, mosses, sedges and rushes. The area has small lakes and Shandangan fens know as kettle-holes. The mountain range is rich in biodiversity including endangered species such as the Red Grouse. It is part designated SPA under the Birds Directive associated with the Hen Harrier with more than half the area afforested. There is National Heritage Area (NHA) X 4 in the greater area. Overall there is about 22k ha of designated SPA, SAC and NHA combined. [Note: From a recreational perspective the Slieve Felim Way is a long-distance trail (43km) from Murroe to Slivermines. It is a National Waymarked Trail designated by the National Trails Office.]
3. Founded: Slieve Felim Grouse & Conservation Project, 2011 / Tipperary Midwest Upland Forum, 2012. [Note: Other area based enabling bodies include: Slieve Felim Country Holidays; Mother Mountain Craft Group; Slieve Felim Vol. Comm. Dev. Co-op Soc. Ltd; Community Food Centre Rearcross; ARC (Aghnameadle Resource Centre), work in progress; Slieve Felim Conservation Trust: Failte Slieve Felim and; Beara Breifne Way (BBW) /Ormond Way/ O’Sullivan Beara Association.]
4. Genesis: The original formation of the group was motivated by a need to create employment given the demise of uplands agriculture, with a view to promoting and managing tourism / recreation interests while simultaneously helping to conserve and manage endangered species such as the Red Grouse and Hen Harrier. An umbrella community group immediately followed, the Tipperary Midwest Upland Forum. Other affiliated groups emerged shortly thereafter namely the Failte Slieve Felim (tourism) and Mother Mountain Craft Group. The model is ‘Voluntary & Community in Action’. [Note: The ambitious and innovative North Tipperary Food Works initiative was supported through this community partnership see: www.facebook.com/North Tipperary Food Works.]
5. Vision: To facilitate, deliver and promote, sustain and improve the social, community, cultural and economic lives for all citizens through a partnership approach.
6. Key Objectives:- Environmental: The introduction of a set of practical measures to reverse the decline in quality habitats based on good management practice to alter the catastrophic loss of biodiversity including upland and moorland birds. Economic: Promote, cultivate and promote economic growth to enhance the quality of life for all in the area. Community: To make Slieve Felim a place where all families, individuals and visitors can prosper.
7. Structure: A core management group of eight are drawn informally from the community, tourism, heritage and wildlife sectors. The overall management system works effectively, if under resourced. Strong leadership helps unify activity and avoids conflict or duplication. All the groups listed are formally constituted but not limited by guarantee or possess charitable status.
8. Operational Management: This is a purely voluntary community orientated enterprise. The Forum meets about 8 times per year. The other groups are more seasonal. They have done some training but identify governance, technical writing for funding applications, lobbying, recruiting and managing volunteers and fund raising as areas in which they need immediate support. The group have access of up to fifty volunteers. [Note: Equipment Training has been proposed e.g. chainsaws for the eradication and control of invasive species. This will likely have a resonance with other groups.]
9. Annual Core Budget: 16k per annum.
10. Sample Programming: Local Guide Training – 24 local guides went through an accredited tour guide training programme at a cost of 37.5k but after the course there was no follow-up, commercial impact or support on the ground from those who undertook the initiative; The North Tipperary Food Works – Rearcross is a partnership with the County Enterprise Board delivering a facility with food production incubation units of approx. 250sq.m (4 units) offering a “plug n play” solution for local micro food start-up businesses; Beara Breifne / O’Sullivan Beara Route – continue to actively support the development of the 510km route from Bantry to Leitrim with nearly one quarter of the route in Tipperary; Academic Research Support – to continue to support a variety of research projects that have / are being undertaken in the area by the likes of TCD, DCU and LIT; Special Work Programmes – delivery of the individual work programmes under themes such as Grouse & Conservation / Tourism / Crafts & Food. Currently, members are facilitating and supporting feasibility studies, research and testing of Biochar, Conservation of Peatland for/and carbon retention purposes; Preparing a Plan for the new locally led Environmental Scheme under SPA Hen Harrier Designation with the Stakeholders; Developing a Strategy to deliver an effective Heather Management model; Undertaking Evaluation of progress and how best to be a more proactive and redefining and helping to deliver the social, economic and environmentally sustainable initiatives around our biodiversity.
11. Some Practical Problems Encountered: We can easily get 25/30 people out on a mountain for a heather cut but Slieve Felim was and remains a ‘fragmented place’ where we have had Teagasc areas X 3 / FAS areas X 3 / LEADER X 3 / Councils X 3; We sometimes feel we are stuck in a black hole between Cashel and Lough Derg; We feel we have encountered prejudice and exclusion but we don’t regard ourselves as victims; We have no funds, dedicated administration or coordination.
12. Some Unresolved Issues: We have identified that we can create up to 40 sustainable local jobs but continue to encounter unhelpful bureaucracy [Note: A number of these were in the realm of conservation and practically managing the uplands.]; How best to develop a positive on-going working relationship with local authorities and development agencies built on mutual respect and common achievable objectives; Managing debt – Food Works when there is little continuous public support, a poor community fund raising base and substantial establishment costs which were borrowed.
13. Lessons Learned: No jobs, no future for upland areas; We have deliberately targeted 20/30yrs old as a source of renewal for our groups with 30% of all those involved today under 40 years of age. The next Chair of the Forum is 25 years old and has been shadowing the current Chair for the last year in a Vice Chair role. Younger people need to be individually asked to become involved; We have learned much from visiting other related projects throughout Ireland e.g. the Kerry Craft Trail model; We are held back by politics and history; The community has become increasing aware of the value of its carbon sink; People are proud overall to live in the mountains but it is at a significant financial sacrifice; You either accept the ‘curse of the darkness’ or you become pro-active in managing your own future as we are attempting to do; It is not possible to raise a family today with a reasonable quality of life on a 100 acre upland farm where profits will be between 16-20k per annum at best including single farm payments.
14. Work Profile: Special Projects 55%; Community Engagement 25%; Administration and Fund raising 15%; Communications and Events 5%.