Forestry imbalance laid bare by new figures
More planting in Leitrim than in four of the biggest dairying counties combined
MORE land was planted to forestry in Leitrim last year than in four of the country’s leading dairy counties combined.
A total of 536ha were planted by private concerns in Leitrim, while the total for Waterford, Kilkenny, Tipperary and Limerick was just 515ha.
The area planted in both Mayo and Clare also exceeded the combined figure for these four counties, with 532ha planted in Mayo in 2017 and 518ha in Clare.
The figures for private planting were outlined in the Dáil by the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, in reply to a parliamentary question from Sinn Féin’s Martin Kenny.
They show the unbalanced nature of private planting in the country, with most activity concentrated in the west and in the north midlands.
The top six counties in terms of planting activity were Leitrim, Mayo, Clare, Roscommon (431ha), Cork (420ha) and Galway (400ha).
The low level of plantings in some counties will be a cause of concern, in light of recent comments from Teagasc chairman Liam Herlihy to the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee that expanding forestry cover on dairy, drystock and tillage farms is a critical for Ireland to achieve its climate change targets.
Although Minister Creed told the Dáil that broadleaves and native varieties now accounted for almost 25pc of plantings, Deputy Kenny pointed out that the vast majority of plantations were monoculture conifers.
Deputy Kenny, who is from Aughavas in south Leitrim, said excess plantings of farms in many parts of Leitrim, west Cavan, Mayo and Sligo was having a detrimental impact on local communities.
“The land is planted and is not touched again until it’s thinned at seven or 10 years, and then it’s harvested at 25 or 30 years,” Deputy Kenny said.
“The lads doing the thinning and harvesting are outside contractors, the timber mills are 100 miles away, so no locals are getting a turn out of the forestry.
“With forestry there is only activity one year out of 40.”
Farm organisations have strongly opposed the level of planting in the northwest, with both the INHFA and IFA calling for a moratorium on planting in Leitrim.
“We need to get the right trees, in the right place, for the right reason, and with the right management,” said Mary Rooney, regional chair of Leitrim-West Cavan INHFA.
“INHFA want an immediate ban on the planting and replanting of monoculture conifers, and their replacement with mixed broadleaf forestry.”