The GeoparkLIFE Project
GeoparkLIFE is a tourism for conservation programme established by the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark to seek a collaborative balance between the tourism interests and the conservation needs of the Geopark region. To fund the projects work programme the Geopark applied for and was awarded EU LIFE funding of €1.1 million. Matching grant aid is being provided by the projects stakeholders who are from the tourism and conservation fields; Clare County Council, Geological Survey of Ireland, Failte Ireland, National Parks & Wildlife Service, National Monuments Service, Office of Public Works, Heritage Council, National University of Ireland Galway and University College Dublin.
The project began in October 2012 and will be completed by December 2017
The Geopark LIFE Project aims to strengthen the integration of tourism and natural heritage, reconciling tourism development with conservation of biodiversity and cultural heritage in the Burren region. The policies relating to tourism and conservation, both nationally and internationally, will be analysed and recommendations on the integration of these policies, to support the integration of tourism and conservation actions on the ground, will be made. A study on the existing policies can be found here
The innovative aspect of this project will be to advance tourism for conservation as a European methodology of value to local communities. This will aim to be a strong demonstration project with pilot actions being stimulated to test the use of tourism for conservation in the Burren.
In European terms, the objective is to improve the environmental performance of SMEs and promote strategic integrated planning approaches for improving the use of land. The project will thus work with tourism SMEs in conservation actions. The Burren project will contribute to the EU biodiversity objectives through the integration of tourism and biodiversity. The project will support the EU priority to promote the development of sustainable, responsible and high-quality tourism. The project will also stimulate a heritage community within its local partnership and enrich the heritage of the area. The project will support the European landscape convention through the tourism conservation actions on the fragile landscape of the area.
On a national and regional level the project will be an important development of the progressive work carried out to date in the Burren in areas such as farming for conservation through Burren Life (a very successful EU LIFE biodiversity project), sustainable tourism models through the Burren Connect and Burren Ecotourism Network partnership, as well as established initiatives in education and awareness through community participation with a focus on collaborative landscape management.
We are strengthening the capability of enterprises in the Geopark in the following areas: use of natural resources, resource efficiency, use of renewable energy, energy efficiency, waster reduction and carbon footprint reduction.
We will do this through four steps; improving environmental impact, improving economic impact, resource planning for the enterprise and implementing the plan for tourism conservation.
2. Visitor Management
The landscape of the Geopark is a mosaic of specialised natural habitats, hosting unique and varied flora and fauna. Nestled within these habitats is a vast array of archaeological, architectural and cultural heritage sites. We want to maintain this unique landscape while encouraging visitors to view and enjoy it. To do this we are developing monitoring programmes for a number of key sites to allow us to record any negative and/or positive changes that may occur due to recreational pressures and from this we will develop site management strategies. The template that results will be a best practice model which will be transferable to other sites within the Burren and further afield.
We have selected key heritage sites and as part of our management strategies for the sites, we are building up a partnership between the state agencies with responsibility for heritage and the local communities within whose geographical areas these sites are located. Practical training in conservation management is being delivered to the local community through a series of case studies based around these sites. This will develop a skill base within the Burren community, enhancing the capabilities for conservation management and providing an important demonstration project to stimulate further action beyond the life of the project.
The Burren is a complex area, with very sensitive issues embracing landscape, history, geology and archaeology. Because of this complexity, no single organisation contains all the requirements, so the project demands a multi-organisation and partnership approach, with each agency bringing its own special inputs.
- Clare County Council (CCC): lead partner and local authority for the area
- Failte Ireland (FI): national tourism authority (tourism training and promotion)
- Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI): official body for geological information
- National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS): official legal protector of habitats
- National Monuments Service (NMS): official legal protector of monuments
- University College Dublin (UCD): experts in policy and international heritage management
- Heritage Council (HC): official body for awareness about heritage
- National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG): experts in archaeological monuments and landscapes and in environmental management
- Office of Public Works (OPW): official body for management of publicly-owned monuments
The project will result in several achievements by the end of its life: tourism enterprises strengthened in conservation, new improvements to archaeological and natural sites, as well as enhanced skills for conservation management.
The project will be designed to ensure that the achievements are tangible and complete at the end of the project. These outcomes on sites, resources and heritage will be structured to ensure that they are self-sustaining and lasting, capable of stimulating further action themselves. The critical issue will be to mainstream the outcomes into the local organisational systems, community groups, operators and funding organisations. This mainstreaming will be concerned about maintaining ongoing actions in sites improvement, resource management and heritage management, all stimulated by the Burren tourism project.