CANN Project finalist in Europe-wide competition

A jury of 1000 European citizens is working hard to single out this year’s most innovative political projects, and The CANN (Collaborative Action for the Natura Network) project, led by Newry Mourne and Down District Council, is through to the finals! The prestigious Innovations in Politics Awards, now in its fifth year, asks politicians from all over Europe to submit their most outstanding political initiatives over a range of themes. Cathy Mason, the chairperson of NMDDC, nominated the CANN Project as an exceptional example of partners working together across borders to develop practical solutions to the urgent problems of climate change and biodiversity loss.

“Details of the huge range of work being undertaken by the CANN project in our district and others, in a swathe from Sligo to the Highlands of Scotland impressed me,” said Cathy Mason

“However, what immediately struck me was the strength of the partnership, and the way councils, charities, academic institutions and government departments are working together, showing real political leadership,” she continued.

The CANN project is a finalist reaching the last ten in the Ecology section of the awards, whittled down from over 400 entries across Europe. The winners of each of the nine categories will receive one of the coveted trophies in a special awards ceremony held in the New Year.

The CANN project aims to improve the condition of protected habitats and to support priority species found within Northern Ireland, the Border Region of Ireland and Scotland, allowing the region to meet key EU biodiversity targets and ensuring the future of these internationally important habitats and species.

Fire-fighting and Fire-prevention techniques demonstrated on Cuilcagh

On Thursday 14 October, The CANN project along with partner agencies and Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) held a wildfire awareness event for key site users and landowners to increase awareness of how wildfires can be prevented, and how NIFRS responds to wildfire incidents, with the aim of driving down wildfires in the Cuilcagh Anierin Mountain, and the rest of Northern Ireland.

In the last three years, NIFRS has attended 6,300 wildfires across Northern Ireland. Dealing with wildfires unnecessarily draws NIFRS resources away from where they are needed most, protecting our community.

In a bid to manage and respond to wildfires, NIFRS Enniskillen District has been working with The CANN Project along with the Pau Costa Foundation, PSNI and Fermanagh and Omagh District Council to develop a wildfire management and response plan for Cuilcagh Anierin Mountain, County Fermanagh.

 “Not only is there a huge environmental cost in terms of loss biodiversity and increased atmospheric carbon, but wildfires unnecessarily tie up fire services’ time and resources. Therefore, the purpose of this event was to show the multi-agency response and management of wildfires before, during and after incidents, and generate awareness of the impact of wildfires on habitats, species, carbon and farming in these upland areas,” said Podge McKeon, district commander NIFRS.

The CANN project’s focus is on preventing fires through changes in land management. In a hierarchy, the best solutions are re-wetting the peatlands and working with farmers to graze animals, next, ecologists would move to management of fuel load through cutting and lastly the use of prescribed burns. In this event, the safe use of slow, shallow, cool burns were demonstrated.

“Wildfire planning creates a really useful tool to help focus habitat management in places where small changes can have a big impact. The partnership approach demonstrated in events like this is vital for the long-term health of our peatlands. Over 60 people from both sides of the border attended this event and the links made will be invaluable in managing the land to prevent fire as well as fighting such fires as do occur”. said Simon Gray, Senior technical officer with CANN partners Ulster Wildlife

Finance Minister explores value of peatland on Cuilcagh visit

Finance Minister Connor Murphy today paid a visit to the peatland restoration project on Cuilcagh Mountain in Fermanagh, exploring a new vision for Northern Ireland’s peatlands with representatives from  CANN partners Ulster Wildlife,

“With COP26 approaching and the pending decision by the NI Assembly on the Climate Bill, this visit has highlighted the role of nature-based solutions as an important part of the pathway to net-zero emissions as recommended by the Climate Change Committee,” said Minister Connor Murphy.

Making a long-term difference through natural solutions requires investment, however, there is an important inter-generational return. Restoration of our unique habitats is no exception, particularly peatlands which can provide considerable benefits to our society called “ecosystem services”. These benefits can only happen when peatlands are in good condition. Peat soils cover an estimated 18% of NI’s land area, however, 88% of our peatlands are now considered in need of restoration due to years of drainage, afforestation, wildfire, erosion and historic overgrazing.

Jim McAdam J Fulton and Connor MurphyShowing Minister Murphy the progress made in restoring areas of Cuilcagh’s degraded peat, Jennifer Fulton, CEO of Ulster Wildlife, said,

“Restoring peatland offer significant value for money preventing the loss of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and in their long-term removal and storage. They are a source of clean water and can reduce the risk of damaging and expensive flash floods downstream, not to mention the cultural and amenity value of these beautiful and biodiverse habitats.”

“Currently, peatlands in damaged condition, are emitters of greenhouse gases. Just one cubic meter of peat – the size of an armchair – holds the equivalent amount of carbon that would be released from a car in 300 return trips from Dublin to Belfast. We have over a billion cubic metres held in our peat soils, storing a massive amount of greenhouse gases, and we need to invest to make sure they aren’t released, harming our efforts to reduce the effects of climate change.”

Peatlands cover just 3% of the world’s surface but store more carbon than all other vegetation types in the world combined. However, peatlands in damaged condition are net-emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs). It is estimated that NI’s degraded peatlands are emitting 170,500 tonnes of CO2 each year, and 223,200 tonnes of GHGs (in CO2 equivalent) in total. Peatlands will be an important part of NI’s climate action plan. An ambitious peatlands restoration programme would provide significant long-term benefits both in reducing carbon emission and in providing vital ecosystem services. If works like those seen in Fermanagh are more widely applied, the emission of greenhouse gases would be stopped almost immediately, and our restored peat soils would become ‘fit for purpose’ to start capturing millions more tonnes of carbon each year. An investment in our peatlands pays dividends annually, a fact which is not lost on the Department of Finance.

Loughshore people get a taste for boggy delights

Local people enjoyed a guided culinary and foraging walk around Peatlands Park this week and had the opportunity to brew their own pine needle tea and produce their own apple juice.

The event was organised by a new environmental grouping established to celebrate and protect the important wildlife habitats between the River Blackwater and the Bann. The development of the group and its lively programme of events is part of the outreach work of the CANN project, which is delivering conservation work restoring the raised bog on the site through re-wetting and clearing of invasive rhododendron. This was one of a series of events that are all advertised on Facebook, search for to find out more.

People of all ages took part in the exploration, enjoying the last sunshine of autumn (along with a couple of showers), and tasting some of the riches of the season.

“Our guide, Daniel Monaghan,  a local teacher and story-teller,took us on a walk around the park and explained the different habitats of bog and woodland here at Peatlands Park. We learned about the properties of sphagnum moss and the role bogs can play in combating climate change” said Paul Higgins who lives locally.

“On the way round, we gathered pine needles and apples from the local heritage orchard and sampled our own freshly pressed apple juice and enjoyed the refreshing taste of pine needle tea” he continued.

Keep Up-To-Date with CANN

Click the button below to download a PDF copy of our most recent project newsletter


Website designed by Visionworks Interactive

Skip to content