Environment Minister Mark H Durkan made the announcement today at the Challenge Fund celebration event held at Skainos, Belfast

The Challenge Fund provides vital funding for communities and organisations to develop a number of new and inspiring local environmental projects across Northern Ireland.
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The Challenge Fund was run as a pilot scheme for the last two years. Due to its success it is now being allocated this core funding of £1million for 2014.

In addition this year, the Forest Service is providing £200,000 for forest–based partner/community–led projects.
Minister Durkan said: “Last year’s Challenge Fund was a very successful programme. The innovative ideas of the 56 environmental projects which received a share of the £360,000 funding produced remarkable results for the environment. The best way to celebrate success is to build on it and for that reason I have allocated a significant portion of the proceeds from the Carrier Bag Levy to deliver a much enhanced, bigger and wider reaching Challenge Fund than last year.

“This fund is about challenging and inspiring local communities to look at what they can do differently to improve the environment. It’s about encouraging and supporting energetic partnerships between local businesses, schools, youth groups and residents; those who want to transform and shape their local environment for the better. I would urge groups across the north to come up with projects and apply to this increased Challenge Fund.”

Northern Ireland Environment Link (NIEL) has been contracted to administer the Northern Ireland Environment Agency’s (NIEA) Challenge Fund for 2014. In addition to the money from the Forest Service, this will see an overall Fund of £1,200,000 addressing environmental and community need throughout Northern Ireland through local schools and groups.

DARD Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “I welcome this opportunity to make available funding of £200,000 for forest–based partner/community–led projects. This funding is being made available as an integral part of my Department’s delivery of the £4m Forestry Fund secured under the Executive’s Economy & Jobs Initiative.

“I am aware that the wider community has expressed an interest in being involved in services available in forests, and I would encourage those with interests to submit their proposals under the NIEA Scheme.”

Professor Sue Christie, Chief Executive, NIEL, said: “The substantial increase in programme funds for this year’s Challenge Fund is excellent news. The £1,200,000 of funding from the NIEA and the Forest Service will ensure that more practical initiatives will make real environmental impact differences throughout Northern Ireland’s rural and urban communities. Last year’s funding delivered important work in the areas of built heritage, environmental education, public access and many others. This success demonstrates the ability of the non–governmental organisation sector to deliver much needed projects on a small budget, to a tight timescale and with strong environmental outcomes.”

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