More than half a million native woodland trees will be planted on former boglands over the next three years in a bid to tackle carbon emissions, the Department of Environment has announced.
In a joint collaboration between Coillte and Bord na Móna, approximately 600,000 native trees are being planted across 1,500 hectares of Bord na Móna land that is no longer used for peat production.
The focus will be on growing a mix of native Irish trees such as Downy Birch, Scots Pine, Alder and other broadleaf species.
Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, Richard Bruton said the project will see the lands "transformed into rich native woodlands".
“Our land is one of our most powerful tools in responding to the climate challenge. This project is a great example of how we can better use our resources to step up our response, to what is the most crucial issue of this generation,” Mr Bruton said.
“Not only are woodlands crucial to absorb carbon emissions, but they are essential for preserving Ireland’s biodiversity. The focus of this project is on native Irish trees and animal species.”
Bernie Gray, chair of Coillte, the State-owned commercial forestry business, said she is "delighted to announce this exciting collaboration".
“Coillte is ideally positioned to lead the creation of new woodlands for carbon sequestration and to develop recreational forestry for the enjoyment and wellbeing of the public,” she added.
Tom Donnellan, chief executive of Bord na Móna said the company is "decarbonising its business" and changing how it manages bogs.
“As we step back from our traditional operations, our new business approach involves different, innovative activities across our estate and in many cases that involves a range of new partnerships,” he said.
He added that the company intends to rehabilitate a total of 35,000 hectares of peatlands by 2025.
On Tuesday, the Green Party put forward a motion before the Dáil calling for a shift in the State’s forestry policy.
Party leader Eamonn Ryan is calling on the Government to push for a "continuous cover forestry" model, supporting a wider range of forest types including semi-wild areas and forestry on farms. The current model favours the plantation of Sitka Spruces.
Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil and some independents have indicated they will support the motion when the Dáil votes on it on Thursday.
In the 2019 Climate Action Plan, the Government committed to planting a target of 22 million trees every year for the next 20 years. Some 70 per cent of new afforestation is accounted for by short-rotation conifer plantations, with the remaining 30 per cent being broadleaf trees.
At 11 per cent (770,000 hectares), Ireland has one of the lowest levels of forest cover in Europe – 2 per cent of the country is covered by native or semi-natural woodland. In 2017, Sitka Spruce made up 51 per cent of all trees planted, a total of 343,310 hectares.