Forests are 'depressing places' and are leading to the closure of schools, Leitrim group claims

'20pc of our land is already planted, we will fight to save the rest'- Save Leitrim protesters

The Save Leitrim group held a protest billed “Communities not Conifers” outside Leinster House against what they claim is the Government's misguided focus on the growing of monoculture conifer plantations in Leitrim.
The Save Leitrim group held a protest billed “Communities not Conifers” outside Leinster House against what they claim is the Government's misguided focus on the growing of monoculture conifer plantations in Leitrim.
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

Sitka spruce forests - made up of large, coniferous, evergreen trees - are “depressing places” which increase rural isolation and lead to the closure of primary schools, the Save Leitrim campaign group have claimed.

The group held a protest billed “Communities not Conifers” outside Leinster House against what they claim is the Government's misguided focus on the growing of monoculture conifer plantations in Leitrim.

Leitrim saw the highest amount of land being planted last year, with 536ha added to the county’s woodland. Leitrim now has 18.9pc of its land bank planted.

Edwina Guckian, founding member of the group told FarmIreland that the current forestry policy in Leitrim is having a negative impact on the mental health of people in the region.

“Forestry in Leitrim is not a rosy picture.  Plantations aren’t doing anything to raise tourism. You’d be lucky to be able to crawl through them if you could get in at all. They are horrible dank, lifeless places to be and depressing to look at. People are completely surrounded by forests in the county,” she said.

“The darkness and lack of light that trees cause really affects people. People have also said that they feel threatened by foresters when they try to object to it.”

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Posted by Save Leitrim on Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Justin Warnock from Kinlough claimed that the government’s forestry policy is targeted at Leitrim and has led to the closure of primary schools. He said that the group is determined that no one more trees are planted in the county.

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The Save Leitrim protest protest came as Minister of State Andrew Doyle announced yesterday that he has commissioned an independent study on the forestry sector in Co Leitrim.

“We have 20pc forestry -we want no more tree of any sort planted. We have got to a stage in Leitrim where our primary schools are closing because of all the afforestation. If 20pc of the county is planted, you’ve lost 20pc of the people,” he said.

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“It’s too late for Leitrim but we’re hopeful for other counties so we can stop the coniferisation of Ireland. Once trees grow up the connectivity between houses is gone and people live in isolation. The current policy has no consideration for people.

“We don’t live on streets we live in small rural communities and that has to be defended to the last. 20pc of our land has already gone and we are going to fight for the rest of it before it is too late. If people saw what we travelled through at 6am to get here this morning, we slipped  through snow and ice but we got here because we want to save our county.”

The protest came as Minister of State Andrew Doyle announced yesterday that he has commissioned an independent study on the forestry sector in Co Leitrim.

The study will be led by Dr. Áine Ní Dhubháin, senior lecturer in Agriculture and Forestry in the UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science.

The exact Terms of Reference for the Study will be finalised shortly and the report will be concluded by late-summer this year.

The Save Leitrim Group is calling for a moratorium on planting until the report is completed.

“If he is reviewing it we want to have a say on it and if Leitrim is to survive there needs to be a moratorium on planting. We haven’t been listened to by the government up to now,” Save Leitrim member and retired dairy farmer Sean McLoughlin from Aughavas said.

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice said it’s important the report isn’t another “talking shop and action speaks louder than words”

IFA Leitrim Chair James Gallagher welcomed the announcement of the report and said that the success of the report will be dependent on the co-operation of everyone in Leitrim.

“The review will deal with all aspects of forestry in the county, the effect it has on communities, the effect it has on young farmers who are trying to expand their holdings and who are struggling to compete with forestry.

“Farmers are being driven off their land and displaced by foresters. It has been open season when it comes to planting in Leitrim. There has been no restrictions- that needs to change. We need a balanced approach.”

Almost 12,000 people are employed in forestry in Ireland. Masonite, Glennon Brothers and McMorrow Haulage and Veon are operating in the north-west. Forestry companies argue that the sector creates sustainable employment for the north-west region.

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