17 September 1998 Edition

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Standing up for trees

Robert Allen reports on proposals to re-forest Ireland with native species

The call from Coillte - the 26 county forestry board - for submissions on sustainable forest management has sparked a revolution among Irish woodland protection groups.

The 18 September deadline is expected to elicit responses from a range of groups. In recent weeks there has been a flurry of activity in the forestry world, bringing together individuals and groups working in woodland and forest related activities.

``There seems to be an awareness that we need to reforest this island with native and natural broadleaf trees on an island-wide scale to ensure our future survival,'' said Cormac O Snodaigh of the Indigenous Woodland Trust (IWT).

Forests, particularly in the 26 counties, do not exist for their intrinsic natural value. Coillte, which manages Irish woodlands, have 332,332 hectares of non-native conifer plantations at their disposal and only 11,462 hecatres of broadleaves. The state regards these monocultures as resources.

``Forestry in this country is totally commercial,'' said O Snodaigh. ``This is not good since there are too many losers in this scenario and the myriad of benefits associated with good woodland and forestry management are not being realised.''

In their submission to Coillte, the Indigenous Woodland Trust urge the semi-state body to ``radically change its present forestry practices''.

``Woodlands and the biodiversity within them are essential to environmental healing,'' states the IWT. ``Go n'éirí libh i bhúr meastúcháin agus mar rath ar bhúr gcuid oibre go mbeidh ár bhforaisí dúchasacha beo arís.''

While Coillte are collating the submissions, a myriad of state, industry and NGO woodland organisations will meet in Charleville Castle in Tullamore, Co Offaly, at 2pm on 22 September to discuss the millennium woodland initiative.

This was set up last year to initiate woodland projects. O Snodaigh is confident that an initiative by the IWT will be adapted. ``We want to see the reforestation of Ireland. And the IWT has been given permission by several local authorities and religious orders, north and south, to reforest thousands of acres with native and naturalised broadleaf trees to be held in trust for present and future generations.''

The IWT is asking people to support this initiative. They can be contacted at 91 Howth Road, Howth, Dublin 13. Phone 01 8322509.

IWT's Recommendations:

Re-balance present planting ratio target in favour of native broadleaf species (80% broadleaf to 20% conifer) until over-dominance of non native conifers is equal to or less than native broadleafs in overall forest estate.
Broaden the range of native and naturalised broadleaf tree seedlings available for commercial planting.
Arrange for seed collection programmes of native and naturalised broadleaf trees.
Plant mixed woodlands in favour of monocultural plantations.
Initiate programmes of ``scrub woodland'' management to enhance their biodiversity and increase their size and species content.
Employ a team of wildlife experts to monitor species destruction in forest estates, increase wildlife in existing woodlands, reintroduce lost species of flora, fauna, trees and wildlife.
Stop using chemical fertilisers, herbicides, pesticides and fungicides until a proper study into their environmental effects is completed and the effects on micro-organisms and water quality is known.
Use natural fertilisers like liquid nettle and comfrey, natural pesticides like plants, insects and birds, natural herbicides like mulch mats and labour, natural fungicides like water and temperature.
Stop all aerial spraying.
Instead of clear felling monocultural plantations, remove most trees, leaving enough standing to hold the soil, then replant bare areas with mixed native and naturalised broadleaf species.
Include social and environmental factors on an equal basis with economic factor on all forestry-related decisions.
Make monocultural plantations more accessible to native flora, fauna, trees and wildlife by thinning out until the sunlight reaches the ground.
Use nurseries to grow native and naturalised broadleaf trees.
Increase local employment in local plantations by allowing small businesses to purchase timber from local plantations for local industries.
Employ teams to manage and enhance woodlands in the Coillte estate.
Do not plant cutaway bogs with stika spruce. Rather, plant mixed deciduous woodlands on them.
Improve public relations by listening to local concerns and acting on them.
Plant woodlands that benefit all rather than commercial investment portfolios.
Soon there will be very little hardwood available to global industry at present rates of forest clearings. Planting hardwoods now will ensure viable long term sustainable income for future generations.

What you can do

Gather seeds from trees in your area
Put them into containers full of soil
Leave them outside
Watch them grow
When they are mature (after 2/3 years) plant them on public or private lands in your area
Excess seeds can be sent to the IWT or tree organisations in your area

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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