Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Sunday 27 May 2018

Growth of forestry is impacting on people’s mental heath - former Leitrim rose

Guest Speaker, school teacher and community activist Edwina Guckian with Mary Rooney and Bridget Murphy (INHFA) at the Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association, Forestry Conference. Photo Brian Farrell
Guest Speaker, school teacher and community activist Edwina Guckian with Mary Rooney and Bridget Murphy (INHFA) at the Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association, Forestry Conference. Photo Brian Farrell

FarnIreland Team

The fractious and heated debate on forestry in Leitrim was to the fore at a public meeting in Carrick-on-Shannon on Friday night.

Farmers are being led to make money for big corporations not to generate an income for themselves by planting forestry, according to Gerry Loftus Mayo Chairman of the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA).

Over 300 attended the meeting and those in attendance heard from members of the INHFA, MEPs Mairead McGuinness and Marian Harkin as well as TDs Michael Fitzmaurice and Martin Kenny.

The INHFA said they organised the meeting to “inform and educate” the people of Leitrim who have seen dramatic increases in the volume of new plantings especially from non-farmers.

"Farmers are being led by a ring through the nose… you are being led to make money for others,” Loftus said weith regards to the national policy of wanting to grow forest cover.

He added farmers, particularly those in Leitrim, “cannot compete” with forestry companies buying land.

He cited an initiative launched in 2017 where the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) are working with Finland forestry company Dasos to secure 15,000ha of forestry.

“That’s not right. They can’t do that. Farmers are being outbid by forestry companies (for land), how can we compete?”

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The INHFA says that 750,351ha of land in Ireland is under forestry with plans under the Forestry 2030 initiative to grow this to 970,000ha by 2030.

‘Wiping out communities’

Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association, Forestry Conference, The Bush Hotel, Carrick on Shannon. Photo Brian Farrell
Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association, Forestry Conference, The Bush Hotel, Carrick on Shannon. Photo Brian Farrell

Community activist and Leitirm native Edwin Guckian delivered a powerful speech on the impact forestry is having on her locality.

Estimates suggest that over 400ha of land in Leitrim is now planted. When towns, villages and lakes are removed from the land base, those in the county suggest that over 50pc of all agricultural land in Leitrim is under forest.

Guckian, who represented Leitrim in the 2013 Rose of Tralee, said the growth of forestry in the county is impacting on people’s mental heath.

“Leitrim is being sold off… In 10 years Leitrim will be a very different place, “she said.

“Forestry is wiping out communities, nobody can deny it and forestry companies don’t care… follow the trees and you’ll find rural depopulation.”

Edwina said forestry companies are being encouraged to plant in Leitrim ahead of trying to encourage more young people to stay in the county.

She said that in 2017 there were “86 licences were granted for felling” while just “nine houses were granted planning permission” in Leitrim.

“Give them (young people) a reason to stay and they will stay.

“Country people spend their money in the towns, if they disappear, towns disappear.”


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