Greens call for more diverse forests rather than short-rotation monoculture conifer plantations.
The Green Party has responded to comments from the forestry industry representative group FII that Sitka spruce plantations would continue to be the ‘workhorse’ of the sector, with short rotation conifer plantations accounting for 70% of new afforestation.
Eamon Ryan TD said: ‘We need our forestry sector to tackle both the biodiversity and the climate crises that we face. As we expand our level of forestation we need to change the whole model so that new plantations increase biodiversity, improve soil and water conditions, and help create vibrant local communities, as well as storing more carbon.
‘The current model involving the clear-felling of trees every thirty-five years can help meet the latter climate objective, but it is failing us on all other counts.
‘We need instead to switch to a more evolved forestry model which delivers a range of different benefits. It has to start with the development of a proper national land-use plan which promotes the growth of the right type of tree in the right place.
‘Such a plan would identify what type of land would be best reforested through a ‘rewilding’ process, where trees return through a natural regenerative process. Other areas would be targeted for ‘continuous cover’ forestry, where skilled foresters manage the reseeding of trees through the use of a sophisticated thinning and forest management practice.
‘We have to move on from chopping down trees every thirty-five years and seeing forestry as only being suitable on marginal land and mountain areas. The Government has just announced the expansion of the Agroforestry scheme but they are restricting it to lands that are designated as being ‘acid-sensitive.’
‘We want every farmer involved in such schemes, and every part of the country – including urban areas – involved in the planting of new trees. Tackling the climate crisis should not require the wholesale alteration of the landscape to accommodate large monoculture plantations. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to reforest Ireland in a way that restores nature in a truly sustainable and really rewarding way.’
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