Action plan ‘to save farming’ called for at Leitrim forestry conference

An action plan has been called for by farmers from counties Leitrim and west Cavan at the forestry conference hosted by the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA), hosted on Friday last (January 19) in Carrick-on-Shannon.

Such a plan needs to be put in place to save their farmland, their traditional farming practices, and their towns, villages and local communities, according to the farmers’ organisation.

On the night, the INHFA gave a presentation based on data collected from various sources, including the Department of Agriculture’s annual forestry statistics, and a slide show of alleged malpractice by those engaged in the forestry business with destruction of the natural environment.

Examples were also given showing that high concentrations of afforestation in areas rich in natural biodiversity have “serious direct and indirect effects and a cumulative negative impact” on such regions, the association said.

INHFA forestry conference
L-R: Michael Fitzmaurice TD; Colm O’Donnell INHFA president; Bridget Murphy, INHFA Sligo secretary; Martin Kenny TD; Gerry Loftus, INHFA forestry chairman; MEP Luke Ming Flanagan; Mary Rooney, INHFA, Leitrim chairperson; MEP Mairead McGuinness; MEP Marian Harkin; and Gerard McGovern, INHFA. Image source: Brian Farrell

These negative effects include habitat loss, water pollution and fragmentation of flora and fauna – along with impacting on local communities and established local farming practices, the INHFA claims.

Speaking after the meeting, INHFA forestry spokesperson Gerry Loftus said: “We must all listen to the people who have spoken here tonight.

They have called for a plan of action; a plan of action to save their counties, their farm families, local communities, towns and villages – and the family farm.

In his closing speech at the conference, Loftus pledged the commitment of the INHFA to work alongside the people of Leitrim and west Cavan.

He added that the association would be taking action to help the farmers and communities in those areas.

The spokesperson stated that the INHFA would be taking the following course of action in the near future and will be meeting with Minister Andrew Doyle to highlight the fear within those communities.

He highlighted other issues also, calling for measures including:
  • A private members’ bill in the Oireachtas to amend forestry planning regulations;
  • A ban on clear felling;
  • Compulsory vaccination and microchipping of badgers that become displaced during current clear felling practices;
  • Grant aid for deer-proof fencing;
  • Higher grant aid for farmer-owned plantations;
  • Proper 20m firebelts surrounding plantations;
  • Oireachtas to bring forward legislation to make agricultural land a special asset of the state, thus controlling the amount of land that could be planted in any one county;
  • An end to monoculture plantations (all sitka spruce);
  • That Ireland must reach its 30% broadleaf commitments;
  • Agroforestry to be considered by farming enterprises to mitigate the greenhouse gases produced on their farms.

Concluding, Loftus said: “If the Government has to meet carbon emissions targets then we all have a problem; we must all be part of the solution. Don’t ignore us – come talk to us and don’t sacrifice our way of life and vibrant rural communities.”