Save Leitrim group has ‘grave concerns’ over forestry study

The Save Leitrim group, which as long pushed for research into the effects of forestry in the county, has expressed “grave concerns” over the terms of reference for a study on the issue.

The group said it was “shocked” that Andrew Doyle, Minister of State with responsibility for forestry, did not engage with them before finalising the reference terms, which were published last Friday (February 15).

“The minister does not seem to have taken on-board any of the expressed concerns of the people or communities in Leitrim in setting the terms of reference,” the group said in a statement.

We believe that the terms of reference are very limited and simplistic and will not allow the UCD team to investigate, to report on, or address many of the complex and interlinked concerns by the farming sector [and] by the communities.

The terms of reference that were announced will deal with a number of issues surrounding afforestation in Co. Leitrim, including the social and economic impacts, as well as its effect on farm incomes in the region; the research team will be led by Dr. Aine Ni Dhubhain and Dr. Julie Ballweg of University College Dublin.

Save Leitrim had been expecting that such issues as fire risk, planning, soil carbon analysis, local infrastructure, land prices and tax would have been included in the terms of reference, among other issues.

There is absolutely no acknowledgment within the terms of references of the health impacts of forestry on the population and this is a huge gap.

The group claims that the terms of the study, as they currently stand, are designed to avoid critiquing the Government’s wider forestry policy.

“The terms of reference are clearly set to avoid any examination – critical or otherwise – of any aspect of current Government forestry policy which Save Leitrim believes is causing most of the problems with the afforestation,” the group said.

The group concluded by saying that it had “little confidence” in the study, and reiterated its call for a moratorium on further afforestation in Leitrim.