Forestry im­bal­ance laid bare by new fig­ures

More plant­ing in Leitrim than in four of the big­gest dairy­ing coun­ties com­bined

Irish Independent - Farming - - NEWS - DE­CLAN O’BRIEN

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.”

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