Forestry rally prepares to march on Leinster House

Large crowds are set to descend on Dail Eireann next Wednesday (January 30) as the ‘Save Leitrim’ group, together with residents from all over the north-west, aim to voice their opposition to Government policy on afforestation in the region.

The ‘Save Leitrim’ group was established 12 months ago, to highlight the plight of residents in the affected areas after it emerged that 18.9% of the county’s land is now planted – the figures were outlined in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s National Forest Inventory 2017.

The group’s founder Justin Warnock told AgriLand this afternoon (January 22) that the trees being planted in his county – Sitka spruce trees – “do not benefit the environment” and contribute “very little” to local ecosystems.

“These plantations do not create employment on the ground either; it is pure sheer greed that’s going on here, and people are becoming displaced because of it,” claimed Warnock.

Meanwhile, Warnock pointed to next week’s demonstration and said people affected by the issue have been left with “no choice” but to take their cause to Dublin, because the powers that be “will not listen” to those that are speaking out.

Image source: Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

“We are getting strong support on the ground in relation to the issue and while we in Co. Leitrim are very impacted at the moment, it won’t be long until there are more people displaced in other counties across the north-west region because of this,” he continued.

The forestry policy in this country is all wrong. Farmers don’t tend to plant trees – some do, but in very small numbers. The people of Leitrim are now being displaced because of that poor policy.

He went on to claim that numerous small family farms are now “under trees” because of the scale of the plantations.

“Entire townlands are gone – they have been planted out – and nobody will ever go near them again,” said Warnock.

“It’s time now for our Government to listen to the people of the north-west and to the environmentalists who know that policy needs to change before the region is buried under trees,” he said.

According to the latest departmental forestry report, Leitrim is the county with “the highest percentage” of forest cover at 18.9%; while Cork has the largest forest area at 90,020ha.

The group outlined that it is not completely against the planting of trees.

However, Warnock emphasised that “it is imperative that the right trees are planted in the right places and that they are managed in the right way, so that everyone benefits”.

“The environment, wildlife, communities, farmers, economy, the county and the future are all at risk,” he said.

New biodiversity measures

Meanwhile, earlier today, the opening of three new measures to support biodiversity of Irish forests were announced today by the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Andrew Doyle.

Commenting on these measures, the minister said that they come directly from the mid-term review of the current National Forestry Programme.

The department has stated that new measures – including: a new scheme to support ‘Continuous Cover Forestry’; a new Deer Tree Shelter (DTS) and Deer/Hare Fencing Scheme; and Changes to the Woodland Improvement Scheme (WIS) – will serve to “further enhance” the sustainability of Irish forestry by supporting biodiversity.

According to Minister Doyle, the review has already shown “significant” improvements in the biodiversity of Irish forestry – including a 20% increase in the planting of broadleaf trees last year.