Critical changes to Forestry Bill are needed to safeguard our natural assets

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The Environmental Pillar met with the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine on the 28th of January to discuss the Forestry Bill 2013, to stress that critical changes must be made to the bill to safeguard our natural environment for the well-being of future generations. Without these changes, we will continue to suffer losses to water quality, wildlife and our landscape, as well as losses in economic opportunities for rural communities.

The draft Forestry Bill will become the main instrument guiding Ireland’s forest and woodland management regulations. The Environmental Pillar has recommended a number of key amendments in its submission to the government.

“These amendments are essential if Ireland’s forestry practices are to be a positive for the environment and not continue to be a problem for wildlife and water pollution,” said Anja Murray, Environmental Pillar spokesperson.

“Under the current regulations, many wild and wonderful habitats are drained and planted up with an industrial monoculture of non-native conifer trees. These provide relatively poor habitat for wildlife, and are often dependent on heavy use of chemical fertiliser which ends up polluting our waterways.  More damage occurs to waterways and wildlife when the plantations are clear felled 40 – 50 years later,” she continued.

“We need to move away from monoculture forests, with their rows of Sitka spruce marching through the countryside. Instead we should be making the transition to more mixed forests and sustainable long term management practices. Carefully adapted and well managed mixed forests generally produce better timber and deliver better economically too, keeping and creating jobs in rural communities. Forests with a good mix of tree species, including native trees, and mixed age structures, are also much more resilient to climate change, drought, and pests and diseases. ‘Close to nature’ forest management also locks up far more carbon in the long term,” Ms Murray said.

The Environmental Pillar also points to the need for ‘joined-up thinking’ in the government’s approach. One example where it is lacking is the Department of Agriculture’s insistence on scrub removal to qualify for the single farm payment, which contradicts the Forest Service’s objective of increasing Ireland’s low tree cover.
Taken from the Environmental Pillar’s press release