b'On the mid-western coast of Ireland,straddling County Galway and County Clare, there is a the Burren, is its dependence on a farming systemplace of great natural beauty rich with ecological and known as winterage that has existed for thousands ofcultural significance. The Burren is an area of Ireland years in the area. Local farmers bring their cattle to thecomprising some of the countrys most unusual and uplands of the Burren in the winter where they eat backrichecologicallandscape.Endowedwith70%ofthe rank grasses, herbs, and scrub. Then in spring andIrelandsnativeflora,theBurren,withitsgraysummer,oncetheanimalsareremoved,unique limestone rock and caves, exists in stark contrast to the plant combinations can flourish because of lack oftypical green rolling hills seen in other parts of Ireland. competition and the absence of livestock. Today, withThe Burrenor Boireann, meaning place of stone in Burrenbeos help, Burren farmers are being recognized,Irishis home to many familiar sights to those touring and supported, as custodians of this special place. OtherIreland. The iconic Poulnabrone Dolmen, for example, landscapes in Europe are now looking to what happensone of 90 Mega-lithic (giant stone) tombs that date here and are seeking to adapt it as a model of farmingback over 4,000 years, lies in the centre of the Burren. for biodiversity and for conservation.The Burrenbeo Trust is a nonprofit organization Interestingly, in the downturned economy there isthatismadeupofover500membersand120a new appreciation for the Burren. Brendan Dunford,volunteerswhohavechanneledtheirloveforthisco-founder of Burrenbeo (with his wife Ann) offeredspecial landscape into a commitment to preserve it.histheory,Therecentchangeswevehadinthe As Irelands firstand onlylandscape charity, theeconomy are serving to show people that there is moreorganization promotes education and awareness of the out there to appreciatethings that are quintessentiallyBurren by supporting the local farming community, Irishanduniquetousareonceagaingrowingin teachingchildrenabouttheimportanceoftheimportance, like our heritage and our landscape, butlandscape, and working with volunteers to conserve it. they need looking after. People are increasingly anx-The Trust also promotes the Burren as a center ofious to re-connect with their place and their past andeco-tourism, something which strengthens the local the Burren is the ideal landscape in which to do this.economyandprovidesnumerousbenefitsfortheThe Ireland Funds are helping the Trust as theyGalway and Clare counties. However, like many ofdevelop their first volunteer program. We have manyIrelands most iconic landscapes, the Burren stands in people here that cannot give money but are happy todanger of being over-developed and under-maintained give their time and energy. The grant from The Irelandwithout purposeful care. Fundsishelpingusharnessthatenergyintoa Brigid Barry, Burrenbeo Trust Coordinator, spoke structured volunteer program. Thanks to this grant, weof how first impressions can be misleading when it have over 100 people meeting monthly to volunteer andcomes to this area of Ireland. When you first come to learn how to give back to the Burren, said Brendan. the Burren, all you see is rock. But amongst these stones The Burren is the soul of Ireland. It is like a bookis found the most diverse selection of plants anywhere written in stone. It has the most amazing music andin Ireland, featuring rare orchids, as well as Arctic, culture; it is of huge significance for its archeology,Alpine, and Mediterranean flowers growing side by botany, and ecology. But we have to create the awarenessside, the only place in the world where you see this. andhelppeopletoappreciatethesespecialand Brigid went on to explain the farming systems thatirreplaceable values.sustain the Burren, One of the things that is unique toconnect 2012 | 25'