One of the very last official functions carried out by Shane McEntee TD, the late junior minister at the Department of Agriculture, was to launch the Forestry and Timber Yearbook 2013.
Typical of the man, he travelled to Dublin from his Meath constituency that day specifically to launch the yearbook as he had made a commitment to do so, and despite the fact that he was, as it later so tragically transpired, clearly in a state of deep personal trauma.
The entire country was shocked and saddened to learn the following day of his untimely death. Shane was a genuinely committed and conscientious public servant who brought an uncommon degree of energy and enthusiasm to his work with the forestry sector and he will be sorely missed. May he rest in peace.
Now in its 24th year, the Forestry and Timber Yearbook is an Irish Timber Growers Association (ITGA) publication, and one that has become an essential addition to the bookshelves of anyone in the forestry industry.
I eagerly await its arrival just before Christmas every year and back numbers are a constant source of reference. Industry statistics, updated annually, are succinctly reproduced. The directory section, probably the mainstay of the publication, has a full listing and contact details of companies, businesses and organisations in the forestry and timber sectors.
As a result it has become an essential reference for forestry practitioners, growers and the wider industry. And the many articles on a diverse range of subjects are always well written, clear and informative.
Some years ago, the yearbook directory was made available online and it now appears on three websites: www.itga.ie; www.forestry.ie; and www.forestryyearbook.ie.
The websites have registered more than 1.4 million hits over the past year alone. The directory has undoubtedly been the main driver behind this success as it has expanded well beyond the confines of the forestry and timber industry to include all aspects of the renewable energy and associated sectors. You can now find anything from a forestry consultant to a local wood fuel supplier in the directory. This year there has been an unprecedented demand for entries and the websites have been upgraded to cope.
Yearbooks can also be ordered online at www.forestryyearbook.ie (price €14.90 including postage) or by contacting ITGA at 17 Castle St, Dalkey, Co Dublin, telephone 01 2350520; email email@example.com.
The ITGA has also been behind a number of industry initiatives over the years, some of which are becoming increasingly important as the private forest estate starts to reach harvesting age.
TImber security is an increasing cause of concern now that more forest owners are beginning to thin plantations. Even a first thinning of a small area will result in many loads of timber leaving the forest. However, since plantations are often located some distance from the owner's main holding, it can be physically impossible to monitor every load leaving the site.
As a response to these concerns, ITGA developed a timber sales dispatch system. With support and input from both the licensed haulage contractors and the sawmills, the system has been up and running for nearly three years and has been well tried and tested.
Similar to the system operated by Coillte, but adapted in order to be more suitable to the needs of private growers, it ensures that the owner is advised by text message in advance of every load of timber scheduled to leave his forest. The owner then responds to the haulier with a unique permit number applicable to that particular load.
It is a four-part colour-coded, docket system. The first copy is left on-site, ideally in a secure box. The second is retained by the haulier, one is for the purchaser and the final copy, with weight docket attached, is returned to the owner to enable them to reconcile every load with the top copy left on-site at the start of the process.
The system is simpler than it may sound and offers the benefit of an auditable, reconcilable process that tracks and maintains a record of every load that legally leaves an owner's forest. Further details and docket books are available from ITGA at the address given.
I will review other initiatives and industry publications in a future article.
William Merivale is national secretary of PEFC Ireland and a forestry consultant based in Cork. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org