August 25, 2020

Ireland launches new native woodland scheme for public land

Sitka Spruce in Ireland

A new scheme dedicated to the planting of native woodland species on public land has been launched by the Department of Agriculture. The project intends to focus on one of the biodiversity commitments within the Government strategies and will be targeted at public bodies on a local and national level.

Iarnród Éireann is one of the first public groups to show a clear interest in the scheme and the CEO Jim Meade confirmed they will be exploring the feasibility of a particular site in Roscommon as a potential location for the scheme.

The new program reinforces the Government’s target to improve biodiversity and meet its climate commitments, according to the Minister of State for Forestry at the Department of Agriculture Senator Pippa Hackett. Hackett explains that permanent woodlands can capture carbon, protect water sources and will contribute to our landscapes for many years to come.

At present, native or semi-natural woodland species make up just 2% of Ireland’s tree cover. Ireland has one of the lowest levels of forest cover in Europe, standing at just 11% and at the same time, has one of the highest rates of plantation forestry in the region. Back in 2017, Sitka Spruce made up over 50% of all trees planted in Ireland, and the total area of afforested land for Sitka and lodgepole pine increased from 48% in 2004 to 74% in 2018.

While the program has received collective support, there has been some concerns regarding the follow up of newly planted native woodland areas. Andrew Ledger of the Centre for Environmental Living and Training (CELT) explains that there are concerns how these new woodlands are going to managed and protected for the future. Ledge explains that forest management could potentially be controlled by locally trained people, such as CELT members, capable of providing long-term sustainable forest management care.

A number of other forestry schemes are expected to be revealed under new government plans. In the Programme for Government, the new coalition released a new report and commitment to follow on from the original forestry programme, to review the forestry appeal process and to work with local authorities to increase urban tree planting and other forestry policy plans.