Campaign against Coillte sales begins

Fri, Nov 30, 2012, 00:00

A campaign against the proposed sale of some woodland assets belonging to State agency Coillte has been launched.

Trade union Impact, which claims there has been no public consultation on the issue, has called for a “full public debate” on the effects of the sale on the tourism, wood-processing and recreational sectors.

Under its plans for economic recovery, the Government plans to sell the rights to fell and sell trees on State-owned land for up to 80 years.

The union has published an illustrated booklet entitled Save Our Forests, which contains articles on the impact of the sale on rural Ireland, forest roads, biodiversity and public use.

Impact general secretary Shay Cody said the union did not “own” the campaign and the booklet made no mention of staffing levels or industrial issues.

Instead, he said, it had been written and produced by Impact members among the Coillte staff “out of respect and concern for our forests and the huge benefits they give us . . . ”

The launch was also told the campaign was supported by more than 14 forest-user groups, from Mountaineering Ireland and the Irish Wildlife Trust to An Óige and An Taisce.

Speakers yesterday claimed the Government plans would “destroy the character and quality of Irish forests and limit countryside access for walkers, cyclists, school groups and the general public”. It was also claimed the move would endanger the forest products sector, worth €2.2 billion a year, including €286 million in exports.

The booklet says visits to forests are worth €270 million a year and the “consequences of ceding control of Coillte or its assets” would be disproportionate to what “is likely to be a short-term budgetary injection”.