Timber problems ‘could be jeopardising broadleaf and biodiversity planting’

Forestry problems could be jeopardising broadleaf planting, biodiversity and recreation projects, according to Forest Industries Ireland (FII).

This, the Irish forestry stakeholder representative group said, is because it is the production of timber from commercial tree species that pays for the planting of millions of broadleaves.

Ireland could plant 50 million broadleaf trees over the next five years if the forestry sector can get back on track.

This works out at 10 million trees per year if they are allowed to plant what they should be doing at 8,000ha per year, FII says.

The Irish forestry sector has planted at least five million broadleaves per year over the past five years, working out at some 25 million trees.

Between the private sector and Coillte, millions of broadleaf trees are planted each year but this activity is being stopped by the current blockages and objections.

In the private sector, these objections have reduced the planting of new forests to only 2,500ha this year, the association says.

“We should be planting at last 6,000ha and moving rapidly towards the government target of 8,000ha per annum. Operating at those levels we would be planting 10 million broadleaves every year,” according to Mark McAuley, director of FII.

Millions of broadleaves are planted every year by foresters both in native woodland projects and alongside commercial conifers as part of planting licences.

It is mixed forests with diverse species that are the mainstay of forestry in Ireland and these projects put millions of broadleaves in the ground such as birch, alder, oak, rowan and hazel which are the main species.

They can be planted with scots pine in native woodland or alongside Sitka spruce in mixed commercial forests, the FII says.

As well as private afforestation, lots of positive environmental and recreation projects being undertaken by Coillte had been put in jeopardy, McAuley said.

Coillte creates lots of large-scale forestry projects with primarily environmental and recreation objectives. These projects were threatened as the company’s finances were being badly impacted by delays with felling licences and appeals.

The story is much the same as in the private sector – it is the production of timber from commercial tree species that pays for the planting of millions of broadleaves, the director added.

Coillte has used around 5.5 million broadleaves over the last five years and hopes to use a further two million broadleaves in 2020 which is equivalent to 1,200ha.

At this stage there is approximately 69,000ha of broadleaves in the Coillte Estate.

The aim over the next five years is to increase the broadleaf planting programme to 15.5 million plants between Coillte Forest Operations and projects carried out by Coillte Nature.