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New plans in process for our forests and our extensive coastal waters

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Ireland’s maritime area is seven times the size of its landmass at 488,762 km². Within this territory are Marine Protection Areas, currently representing 2.13% of waters with plans to grow this to 30% of Ireland’s maritime area by 2030

Ireland’s maritime area is seven times the size of its landmass at 488,762 km². Within this territory are Marine Protection Areas, currently representing 2.13% of waters with plans to grow this to 30% of Ireland’s maritime area by 2030

Ireland’s maritime area is seven times the size of its landmass at 488,762 km². Within this territory are Marine Protection Areas, currently representing 2.13% of waters with plans to grow this to 30% of Ireland’s maritime area by 2030

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The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue T.D. and the Minister of State Senator Pippa Hackett have announced 'Project Woodland', an initiative to tackle issues in forestry in Ireland and drive forward the planting of trees.

The Ministers accepted a report on reforming the Irish Forestry Licensing system and committed to its immediate implementation.

Welcoming the announcement, Minister Charlie McConalogue stated, "I am delighted to help launch the new strategy for our forestry sector and I give my support to Project Woodland. The new initiative is aimed at solving many of the issues which has mired the forestry sector in recent times".

Minister Hackett said, "Timber production is important, but trees are about more than timber. They are also about beauty, biodiversity, the environment, carbon capture, community enjoyment and enterprise, and social good, and it's time to find the space to say that, and to value that. That is why I am delighted to announce the immediate setting up of Project Woodland."

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Project Woodland is being established by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and involves four different workstreams. The first one will concentrate on the backlog, the second on a vision for forestry, the third on devising a fit for purpose organisational structure, and the fourth on streamlining the licensing process for the future. 

There is a growing recognition in Ireland, and perhaps the world over, with regard to the importance of maintaining biodiversity and trees play a very big part of this. In the coming weeks, subject to Covid-19 and Public Health Guidance permitting, National Tree Week will take place. For the last number of years, Cork County Council's Heritage Unit has coordinated Tree Week within the County of Cork and this year again will hope to be in a position to disseminate hundreds of trees to schools, clubs and local Tidy Towns groups. There will be more on this in the next few weeks.

Tidy Towns

In relation to Tidy Town Groups - there are close to 900 in the country - the Department of Rural and Community Affairs has recently been bringing out a very popular newsletter. The 2nd edition of 2021 has now just been released, which contains updates from a number of TidyTowns Groups including Glounthaune in County Cork; information on the 2021 SuperValu TidyTowns Competition, an update on the 1st phase of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan 2015 - 2020 and tips on entering the Pollinator Special Competition. The newsletter is available on the Tidytowns website by clicking https://www.tidytowns.ie/about-us/newsletters/.

Our ocean wealth

Trees tell us much about ourselves and our past. A past beyond us now at this stage, but one most relevant, is that it is believed by many schools of thought, that life evolved from the oceans - from our very own breath as humans to the trees that breathe with us.

In relation to Ireland's Ocean Wealth, there has been much movement on the national level in relation to the protection of important areas within Irish waters. Launched recently by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, is a public consultation phase on the process of expanding Ireland's network of marine protected areas (MPAs).

MPAs are geographically defined maritime areas with certain protections for conservation purposes a nd the Government aims to expand this network from 2.13% to 30% of Ireland's maritime area by 2030. Ireland's maritime area is seven times the size of its landmass at 488,762 km\sq and when including this ocean territory, Ireland is one of the largest countries in the EU.

Creating an MPA regime will constitute a major change in marine environmental protection in Ireland. At present, there is no definition of an MPA in Irish law. Environmental protections under the Wildlife Acts only apply to the foreshore. Protection in marine areas beyond 12 nautical miles is limited, both in terms of space and species.

The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, is asking the public, stakeholders, industries and others for their views on the final report of the MPA Advisory Group, which was chaired by Professor Tasman Crowe of UCD's Earth Institute.

In addition to conserving marine species and habitats, MPAs can support maritime economic activity and reduce the effects of climate change and ocean acidification. The report quotes economic data showing Ireland's ocean economy has a turnover of €6.2 billion and provides stable, sustainable work for 34,132 full-time equivalent employees.

Launching the consultation, Minister O'Brien said: "Ireland, along with the rest of the world, faces the twin crises of climate change and accelerating biodiversity loss on land and at sea. The Government has a vision of clean, healthy, diverse and productive oceans and seas around Ireland. This report is a solid basis for a national dialogue on how we progress that vision.

"I urge all with an interest in our seas - whether you live in a coastal area, earn your livelihood from the sea, want to protect our marine life or simply value our seas - to have your say by the end of July."

Minister Noonan added: "By expanding Ireland's Marine Protected Area network, we will give vital protection to vulnerable marine species and habitats, and also support the functioning of these ecosystems to provide us with a whole host of benefits including climate change mitigation and enhanced resilience for fisheries into the future. By realising this vision to expand our MPA network, Ireland will play an exemplary role in global efforts to protect marine ecosystems, the extraordinary species and habitats they hold, and the benefits they provide to people."

Marine Spatial Plan

In parallel with plans to increase Ireland's MPA network, the Government will soon publish Ireland's first Marine Spatial Plan - the National Marine Planning Framework (NMPF) - and the Marine Planning and Development Management Bill 2021.

The NMPF is the national plan for Ireland's maritime area setting out how we want to use, protect and enjoy our seas. It will outline the national approach to managing Ireland's marine activities and ensuring the sustainable use of marine resources to 2040. The Marine Planning and Development Management Bill will serve as the cornerstone of the marine planning system in Ireland and it brings together and creates the legal foundation for forward planning and streamlined development management and enforcement.

The public consultation on the MPA process will inform development of new legislation on the identification, designation and management of MPAs, to begin later this year. The consultation will be open for over 5 months, closing at 5pm on Fri 30 July 2021 and further details can be found at www.gov.ie/en/consultations/. People can also provide submissions by emailing marine.env@housing.gov.ie.

Upcoming events

In terms of upcoming events there is one of interest with regards to a connection overseas, and that is the not too-distant city of Liverpool in England. The talk is titled 'The 1916 Rising, the Liverpool Irish and All That' and will be given by Padraig King with a particular focus on Irish Proclamation Signatory James Connolly who was a member of the Liverpool Regiment, posted for a time in Youghal. The event is organised by Youghal Celebrates History and takes place via Zoom on Wednesday 19th March at 19:30. Email kierangroeger@mac.com for more details.


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