More than 7,000 native Irish trees, including 1,800 saplings of the endangered Burren pine, have been distributed to landowners in County Clare as part of a new biodiversity initiative that aims to create dozens of mini woodlands across the county.
The Hare's Corner project has distributed a total of 7,200 native trees to selected landowners in Clare in a bid to help farmers and landowners "make a little more space" for nature.
The initiative, which derives its name from an old farming expression for an awkward section of a field that is left to nature, encourages landowners to create pocket-sized habitats on their land, including a pond, a mini-woodland, or an orchard.
What an exciting day sending on thousands of native #trees including the #Burren pine to our #harescorner participants. Will result in 38 new mini woodlands across Clare cared by these brilliant guardians of our countryside! https://t.co/Stmg4A6MYu pic.twitter.com/vQkKs1UoIo— Burrenbeo Trust (@BurrenbeoTrust) February 12, 2022
Launched by local landscape charity Burrenbeo in August 2021, the Hare's Corner initiative will have supported the creation of 32 ponds, 43 mini orchards consisting of 350 Irish heritage apple trees, and 38 mini woodlands by the time it completes its first year.
Pranjali Bhave, of the Burrenbeo charity, told RTÉ that the initiative provides local landowners with a "simple, hassle-free way" to respond to the climate crisis.
"If you are not part of the solution, you are the problem," Pranjali said.
The mini woodlands will feature Burren pine, a species that once dominated the Burren landscape but was thought to be extinct for more than 1,500 years.
Scientists from Trinity College Dublin remarkably found a small population of the Burren pine growing in a remote location in the Burren in 2016.
Under license from the National Parks and Wildlife Service, seeds were collected from the trees, nurtured, and grown in individual pots so they could be planted out.
Pranjali described the resurgence of the Burren pine as a "fairy tale".
"It’s the stuff of fairy tales because how often do you find something so positive? We have daily reports of species extinction and here is a chance to actually save the native pine that has nearly gone extinct. It is the only known population of it, and it is our responsibility to try to protect it."
She said the Hare's Corner initiative was "achievable and realistic" and added that Burrenbeo had received interest in the project from outside Clare.
A native of India, Pranjali told RTÉ that it was a "huge privilege" to work on biodiversity projects in the Burren.
"I am an immigrant and I think it's a very human thing to look for a connection to a place. I am so happy to have found a way to belong to the landscape and do something positive for it," she said.
“I have found a way to belong to the landscape.”
Pranjali Bhave moved to Ireland from India and fell in love with the Burren. She is leading a conservation project that will see thousands of native trees planted, including one species that was almost lost forever. #ClimateHeroes pic.twitter.com/KBuqEuFUjV— RTÉ News (@rtenews) February 19, 2022
Henry Wilkinson, a farmer from South Clare who is participating in the project, said the initiative would help him to leave a "wonderful legacy" for his son.
"We are delighted to be receiving this support and connecting with like-minded people. These trees will enhance nature on our farm, provide a much-needed shelter belt as we are really exposed to the weather where we are, and ultimately be a wonderful legacy to leave for our son," Wilkinson told the Clare Herald.