Support scheme open for applications.
Applications are now being accepted for a new rural development scheme aimed at protecting and enhancing Scotland's magnificent natural environment.
The £10 million Environmental Co-operation Action Fund is jointly funded by the Scottish Government and European Union under the Scottish Rural Development Programme 2014-2020.
It is the first ever scheme specifically developed to fund the facilitation of landscape-scale projects that meet the Scottish Government's environmental priorities.
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment Richard Lochhead said:
"People who work the land are the custodians of Scotland's magnificent natural environment. Our country's stunning landscapes, iconic wildlife and diverse ecosystems are world-renowned and underpin our rural economy.
"This fund will support collaborative projects aimed at increasing biodiversity, improving water quality and managing flooding – measures that will not only protect the environment, but help it thrive and flourish.
"And, with the agriculture and land use sector accounting for a fifth of Scotland's greenhouse gas emissions, this scheme will also contribute to Scotland's world-leading climate change targets as part of the greenest Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) we have ever had."
The Environmental Cooperation Action Fund (ECAF) is a new £10 million scheme within the 2014-20 Scottish Rural Development Programme. The first application round will open on October 6, 2015 and close on January 15, 2016.
The purpose of Environmental Cooperation Action Fund is to encourage and support landscape-scale environmental projects involving cooperating groups of farmers, foresters and/or other land managers. Funding is targeted to deliver the following priorities, which are most effectively addressed at a landscape scale and contribute to meeting Scotland's targets for biodiversity, climate change and water environment:
o Habitat and degraded ecosystem restoration
o Conservation of vulnerable priority species
o Control of invasive non-native plant species
o Deer management
o Catchment management for water quality
o Physical restoration of water bodies
o Natural flood management
o Woodland creation.
The Environmental Cooperation Action Fund will support the costs of planning, facilitating and overseeing cooperative projects, principally by the funding the activities of a facilitator. Once the cooperative group has been established and the landscape scale action has been planned, applications can be made to the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme and/or Forestry Grant Scheme, or an alternative source of funding to support the costs of on-the-ground management to implement these environmental projects.
The Environmental Cooperation Action Fund encourages a local proactive approach to identifying and delivering opportunities for landscape-scale environmental action. Applications may be made by self-appointed facilitators or by organisations or groups of land managers wishing to appoint a facilitator, such as local authorities, National Parks, NGOs or community organisations.
In addition to the Environmental Cooperation Action Fund, Forestry Commission Scotland will run a 'Forestry Co-operation Option' as part of the Forestry Grant Scheme (FGS). This will cover woodland creation and woodland management co-operative projects up to a limit of 40 man days of facilitator time. Further details are available under the FGS options.
Further information on the Environmental Cooperation Action Fund and on how to apply is available here http://www.gov.scot/Topics/farmingrural/SRDP
Applications will be assessed on a competitive basis by RPID, SNH, SEPA and FCS. Successful applicants will be offered contracts commencing in 2016 and lasting for up to five years.