MulkearLIFE is a European Commission LIFE+ Nature project working to restore degraded habitats through the Mulkear Catchment, which forms part of the Lower Shannon Special Area of Conservation.
The €1.75-million project, which has been active since late 2009, is spear-headed by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI), which act as co-ordinating beneficiary and works with key project partners in the Office of Public Works and Limerick County Council. The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) acts as project co-financier.
A range of other stakeholders support the project including local authorities (North & South Tipperary County Councils) as well as other state bodies (ESB Fisheries, Teagasc, Coillte, EPA) and especially the local community (IFA, ICMSA, Mulkear & District Angling Association, local schools and school children, farmers and volunteers).
In granting its Environment Award for 2013, the Republic of Ireland Branch of the CIWEM noted that MulkearLIFE is one of the most exciting and important river restoration and nature conservation projects ever undertaken on a catchment basis in Ireland. It noted that the project's work is providing a "conservation blueprint" for future integrated catchment management.
The project, which is centred on the Mulkear Catchment, covering an area of approximately 650 sqkm across counties Limerick and Tipperary, is focused on the rehabilitation of degraded river habitats, in particular the conservation and enhancement of habitat for the Atlantic salmon, sea lamprey and European otter.
Other work has concentrated on the control and treatment of non-native invasive riparian plant species and work to enhance local biodiversity. Significant efforts have been directed to creating an enhanced environmental awareness of the importance of the Mulkear Catchment as a resource for all. The local farming community has played a key role in this regard.
MulkearLIFE manager Ruairí Ó Conchúir noted that the success of the project has been highly dependent on an active catchment management partnership process and on extensive outreach work to enhance environmental awareness for those living within or near the catchment.
He noted that the project has worked hard to promote the importance of the Mulkear Catchment on a regional, national and international.
Ó Conchúir stated that a major objective has been the development of strong community links through a comprehensive environmental educational programme within local schools, in addition to actively managed practical conservation outings undertaken by the Mulkear Conservation Volunteers.
Suzanne Dempsey, chairperson of the Republic of Ireland Branch of CIWEM, said she was delighted to acknowledge the contribution of MulkearLIFE in bringing community and government together to plan, manage and enhance the conservation status of the Lower Shannon SAC.
She congratulated all involved in MulkearLIFE, especially the lead partners in Inland Fisheries Ireland, the OPW and Limerick County Council and wished the project every success.
IFI chief Ciaran Byrne thanked CIWEM for the award and the acknowledgement of the work of IFI and its project partners, as well as all involved in the success of the project to date, and especially those involved in MulkearLIFE’s catchment management grouping and local farmers on the ground.
Minister of State Fergus O’Dowd commended the efforts of the MulkearLIFE team and the funding support of the European Commission LIFE+ Programme. He noted that the funding support was of critical importance in allowing the project to undertake much of its work over the last four years, and he expressed his hope that the work would continue into 2014.