Government announces study as protest to take place over'misguided' forestry policy in Leitrim

Minister of State, Andrew Doyle TD
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

A major protest against the Government's forestry policy will be held outside the Dáil today.

Billed as the 'Communities not Conifers' protest, the action is being spearheaded by the Save Leitrim campaign and is also supported by groups in Roscommon and Cavan.

It comes as Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Andrew Doyle announced that he has commissioned an independent study on the forestry sector in Co. Leitrim.

The study is in response to calls for a review of the effects of publicly-funded afforestation in the County. 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 protest, will highlight what activists claim is the Government's misguided focus on the growing of monoculture conifer plantations.

Activists want the Government to encourage the planting of more native hardwoods and move away from a reliance on Sitka spruce.

They also contend that the concentration of planting in the northwest has been detrimental to local communities.

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Buses for the protest will depart a number of locations in Leitrim.

Speaking at the AGM of the Irish Farmers Association, Minister Doyle said I have discussed this matter with the IFA and have agreed with their request for a study to be undertaken.  There are widely differing and often contradictory claims reported about the economic, social and environmental impacts of land use change to forestry. It’s important that these claims are evidence based and the goal of this study is to review some of the common claims and perceptions made about forestry in Co. Leitrim. Its findings can provide information to local communities and the wider rural/agricultural sector so they understand the impacts of the expansion of the forest sector and will obviously help to inform Government policy on forestry, rural development and land use.

Minister Doyle added it is important to emphasise that there are no regional or county targets for forestry. We have engaged with all stakeholders and communities in the design and implementation of the current forestry programme and I have visited Co. Leitrim myself on different occasions to meet all groups. This study will also engage with local communities and assess the impacts of forestry both positive and negative. I am sure all stakeholders will take this opportunity to engage and I would encourage full participation.

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