The Environment Fund is administered by DAERA to support projects which will help deliver key environmental outcomes across Northern Ireland.

For Information on the 2023-2028 Environment Fund click here.

The Fund contributes to 4 Environmental Impact Priority areas:

  • National, EU and International commitments and draft Programme for Government (Tiered)
  • Evidence and Coordination actions
  • Outdoor Recreation actions
  • Northern Ireland wide projects/strategic environmental engagement

The DAERA Environment Fund 2018 Funding Priorities can be downloaded below. Please click on the tabs on the right for further information. This fund supersedes the previous DAERA Environment Fund 2015.

General information

The Environment Fund is always oversubscribed. Successful projects will be those which, alongside existing and other proposed activity, will most effectively help to achieve the priority areas we have identified. These are outlined on this web site and in the Environment Fund Funding Environmental Impact Priorities document.

There are 3 Strands to the Environment Fund:

  1. Multi-year Strategic Environment Fund
  2. In-year Environment Fund including; Ulster Way and NIEA Properties and Land Purchase
  3. Environmental Challenge Competition

Multi-year Strategic Environment Fund

The Strategic Environment Fund programme is CLOSED FOR APPLICATIONS.

In-year Environment Fund

When sufficient budget may be available, In-year funding applications may be considered for high priority projects which could not have foreseeably applied to the Strategic Fund in 2018. Applications for these grants can be submitted by eligible organisations at any time after advice is sought from the Grant Team. The key areas where this funding may be considered include:

Grants for essential works to the Ulster Way and NIEA properties, such as essential maintenance and health & safety works.

Projects which meet the priorities which require a small element of match funding to lever funds from other bodies such as Heritage Lottery Fund.

Grants for land purchase under the Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands (NI) Order may be considered for projects that will deliver significant conservation or access benefits. The applicant must show that:

If you propose applying for an Environment Fund In-year grant you MUST contact the grant team to discuss any possible application. If it is agreed that an application for in-year funding might be appropriate, the current electronic Application Form and Guidance Notes will be emailed to you for completion.

  • Ulster Way and NIEA properties
  • Projects which would lever significant match funding
  • Land purchase
  • The resource or feature cannot be effectively protected, enhanced or created by other more cost-effective means.
  • Their constitution enables them to buy and manage land, and provide public access where applicable and the proposal is within the applicant organisation’s strategic land policy priorities for land purchase and management;
  • They have the ability (resources and experience) to manage the site long term for conservation or access purposes.

Environmental Challenge Competitions

When sufficient budget may be available, and the Department identifies emerging priority areas of work, focussed Environmental Challenge Competitions may be run to deliver these.

The Environmental Challenge Competition 2022/23 is now closed for applications.

This is a grant competition for CAPITAL and RESOURCE/PROGRAMME funding for projects to help people to connect with the natural environment and to conserve our most important habitats. The key areas for funding under this Environmental Challenge Competition are:

How to apply for the Environmental Challenge Competition 2022/23

  1. Nature Recovery: Building ecological and climate resilience

    We are primarily interested in projects that will significantly contribute towards commitments to protect 30% of land and sea for nature by 2030, described in Nature Positive 2030 Summary (, especially initiatives and actions which will: increase the area of wildlife habitat; protect and improve management of habitats, and/or create ‘nature networks’ which will enhance habitat connectivity and support higher species populations or greater species diversity

    These will demonstrate contribution to one or more of the Lawton principles listed below

    Projects may include:

    • bigger (e.g. expansion or buffering of natural heritage sites)
    • better (e.g. improvement in condition of a ASSI or restoration of degraded habitats, especially peatlands)
    • more (e.g. higher species populations or greater species diversity), and
    • more joined up (e.g. creation of wildlife corridors connecting sites)
    1. Actions that will contribute to a larger scale development or implementation of landscape scale nature recovery networks, which may encompass:
      • Restoration of priority habitat, including terrestrial, freshwater and marine habitats.
      • Improvement in the condition of Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSIs), peatland habitats and designated sites in the terrestrial, marine and coastal environment.
      • Creation of blue and green spaces that connect wildlife-rich habitats by acting as wildlife corridors or 'stepping stones'.
      • Initiation of a pilot project to scope and demonstrate delivery of the draft post-2020 framework ‘30x30’ target, in Northern Ireland at a significant scale
    2. Recovery of threatened native species, including helping to reverse species decline.
    3. Measures to tackle specific threats to the natural environment such as invasive non-native species, wildfires and ammonia.
    4. Nature-based solutions, particularly for water quality (such as natural waterways protection and improvements) and climate change mitigation and adaptation (such as increased natural shoreline resilience to address coastal erosion and coastal squeeze or resilient peatland habitats to address degradation).
    5. Establishment and interpretation of baseline surveys and/or environmental surveying, monitoring and mapping where this will produce required statistically reliable long-term surveillance indices/data, including fixed point photography. This can include the equipment and training required.
    6. Projects to support ecosystem assessment, mapping, modelling and reporting to inform the design and delivery of effective, coherent nature networks and the development of decision making tools for policies, plans and programmes. This could include pilot projects to demonstrate how natural capital accounting can be implemented and incorporated into policy and decision making.
    7. Production of data (including development of monitoring methods), and case studies on the feasibility and application of habitat and species restoration and Nature Based Solutions in a Northern Ireland context.
    8. Feasibility studies and development of strategic plans for future large scale delivery of these environmental outcomes to fill a gap in need.
    9. Strategic training programmes to address the skills gaps preventing vital environmental action. This may include:
      • Invertebrate identification & survey skills
      • Practical habitat management skills including use of machinery
    10. Purchase of specialist equipment such as for habitat management, restoration, creation or monitoring including air quality and greenhouse gas monitoring.
    11. Land purchase to help deliver the environmental outcomes outlined above.
  2. Connecting People with nature

    We are primarily interested in projects that will help connect significant numbers of people with nature - through increasing the quality, quantity or accessibility of nature to people or increasing their understanding and involvement in the protection of nature, natural landscapes and earth science.

    Projects may include actions contributing to:

    1. Design, creation and improvement of nature-rich core path networks, strategic routes, waymark ways and trails in urban and rural locations and provision of associated infrastructure to enhance accessibility for all. Routes must: lead to a quality experience of the natural environment; be a minimum of 1km long or provide nature rich link paths to longer walks or provide sustainable access to a designated site; and not charge for their use.
    2. Improvements to national or regional environmental education facilities.
    3. Provision or improvement of regional/national coordination, resources and capacity building activities for leaders and peer leaders to support development of confidence and capacity to deliver environmental learning and engagement projects for the natural environment.
    4. Improving specific groups connection, work for or understanding of the natural environment through strategic coordination activities that may include development and implementation of:
      • Educational opportunities and/or access to nature, particularly for under-represented groups and less engaged audiences.
      • Citizen science for environmental conservation and improvement where this will produce reliable long-term surveillance indices/data.
      • Bolstering health and wellbeing through volunteering or blue/green social prescribing.
      • Action for the environment.
    5. Strategic community engagement and volunteering development for environmental conservation and improvement including the establishment of strategic local groups or greater public involvement within organisations.
    6. Development of feasibility studies, strategic plans, data, mapping and statistics on outdoor recreation and environmental education at a regional or sub-regional scale.
    7. Essential short term maintenance, rangering and visitor management associated with the increased use of outdoor recreation routes within priority habitats during the Covid Pandemic.
    8. Land purchase to help deliver the environmental outcomes outlined above.
  • The normal Terms and Conditions of grant for the Environment Fund can be found here, along with the Environment Fund Guidance Notes (Part 1 & Part 2) which may be useful to help you to complete some of the questions in the Application Form – these have not been written specifically for this Challenge Competition but apply to the overall Environment Fund.
  • Payment of grant will be in arrears unless there are exceptional circumstances requiring a degree of payment upfront.
  • Creation or upgrading of buildings unless they are essential to the delivery of the Environmental Impact Priorities;
  • There is no need to re-submit an application for projects that have already been identified for potential in-year funding in any offer you may have received under the 2019-22/23 Environment Fund Strategic Strand.
  1. The following documents are also available to download on this website: Start Application
  2. Read the EF 2018 Guidance Notes (Part 2) and EF Challenge Competition 2022/23 Funding Criteria & Environmental Impact Priorities documents thoroughly to decide if the EF is suitable for your project.
  3. Read the indicative EF Standard Conditions of Offer which outline many of the conditions you will need to comply with if you are awarded funding. You will need to consider the actions you will need to undertake to deliver these and any associated costs as part of your application;
  4. Discuss your project proposal with a relevant member of DAERA staff. Contact details can be provided by Grant Team staff who can be contacted by email on
  5. Complete the application on the online portal at ‘Start Application’ using the 2018 EF Guidance Notes Part 2 for reference, by the advertised closing date.
  6. DAERA reserves the right to make an offer of funding that is different from the details or financial amounts that are set out in the applications.

How much can we offer?

    For the 2022/23 Environmental Challenge Competition the minimum overall project cost is £30,000. The maximum amount of DAERA funding available under the competition will be 85% of eligible project costs except in exceptional or compelling circumstances such as high priority Covid 19 recovery requirements or urgent designated site restoration.

    Payment of grant will be in arrears unless there are exceptional circumstances requiring a degree of payment upfront.

    Applications may be refused or offered a lower level of funding if there is insufficient budget or there are concerns about value for money or risks in delivering the outputs.

    Contact us

    General grant queries:

    For information about the Environment Fund please contact a member of the team:

    Grant Team Leader:
    Gerard O’Neill
    T: 02890 569598
    E: gerard.o'
    Financial queries:
    Peter Turner
    T: 02890 569610
    Terrestrial and Outdoor Recreation queries:
    Maia Taylor
    T: 02890 569621


    Jeannine McCool
    T: 02890 569232
    Peatland queries:
    Eimear Reeve
    T: 02890 569754
    Marine queries:
    Liz Pothanikat
    T: 02890 569421
    Fresh Water queries:
    River Basin Districts Team
    T: 028 9263 3473

    A Client Officer for each funded project will be allocated in the letter of offer.

    Back to top