Revitalisation of the forestry sector

 

Sir, – It is both surprising and disappointing that there is no mention of native Irish trees in the new IFA plan for revitalisation of the forestry sector.

Farmers can gain considerable benefit from planting native trees, especially financial benefit from valuable hardwoods which are used in construction, furniture, sports equipment, tools, as well as being of high energy value for firewood compared to non-native softwood spruce.

Other advantages are that native trees naturally grow well in Ireland, they are good for wildlife, their fallen leaves add a range of important nutrients to the soil (saving on fertiliser costs), they help stabilise soil (especially on slopes) and they take up a lot of water, reducing flood risk.

There are various agroforestry options including native trees that farmers can avail of according to their landscape and specific needs and which can provide a range of economic, social and environmental benefits.

It would be folly to “put all our eggs in one basket” by focusing only on non-native monoculture coniferous plantations for softwood which is subject to market fluctuations. Native hardwoods on the other hand will always be valuable and sustainable economically (because they have been depleted worldwide), socially (for education, recreation, landscape enhancement and tourism) and, of course, environmentally.

There is certainly a need for change in Government policy but it should not only be directed at increasing conifer cover based upon our actual requirements for softwood timber and pulpwood, but also at encouraging more planting of native trees as a guaranteed investment in our future.

In addition, let us not forget the native Scots pine (closely related to the long-lost Irish pine) which gives better timber than the introduced lodge pole pine which has been favoured by Coillte and the Forest Service. They also favoured Japanese larch (now stopped due to disease) over the more resilient European larch. Sitka spruce could just as easily succumb to disease or pest damage – and if so our forestry cover would be considerably diminished.

Nature has reasons for having different species growing in different parts of the world! – Yours, etc,

BOB WILSON,

Centre for

Environmental

Living & Training,

Flagmount,

Co Clare.