Sir, – Tony Lowes refers to the Irish forestry licensing system as "clogged with appeals against industrial monoculture plantations because no one but the industry wants them" (Letters, July 6th). No one, perhaps with the exception of the woodland walkers who make 29 million visits annually, mostly to Coillte's commercial forests around Ireland, or the estimated 17,000 landowners (mainly farmers) who have established forests over the past 30 years As for the industry, is he referring to the 12,000 people who work in the forests and downstream industries? They and their families have a high regard for forestry and the role it plays in providing sustainable rural employment.
His comments on the percentage of broadleaf planting falling “from 37 per cent in 2009 (after the EU withdrew its 75 per cent funding on environmental grounds) to 21 per cent in 2017” are incorrect. For the three years after 2009, broadleaf planting accounted for 38 per cent, 37 per cent and 31 per cent of total afforestation. After 2012, broadleaf planting did fall, not because of EU funding but because of ash dieback disease.
Understandably, this forced farmers, in particular, to rethink their broadleaf planting strategy as ash was withdrawn from the list of approved afforestation species. Broadleaf planting has recovered since 2017 to 27 per cent of total planting in 2018 and is well in excess of the Government’s target of 30 per cent so far this year, according to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
What should concern all of us is the dramatic decline in annual afforestation to 3,000 hectares, the lowest since the 1940s. There are many reasons for this poor performance but widespread objections to planting and harvesting are playing a major part. All forest owners are asking for is a fair licensing and appeals system that allows them to achieve the government’s annual planting target of 8,000 hectares. This is the minimum required to achieve carbon sequestration targets to maximise the role of forests in climate-change mitigation and rural development. The aim should be to provide greater encouragement to farmers to plant some of their land and integrate it with their farming enterprises, rather than subject them to widespread objections in developing this valuable renewable resource. – Yours, etc,
Society of Irish Foresters,