Tuesday 16 July 2019

'No more sitka please!'

Farmer blocks road at Glenboy over Coillte's tree planting policy

Members of a Leitrim community have taken matters into their own hands, taking a stand against Coillte, who they feel have no consideration for their local area.

Just outside Manorhamilton, in Glenboy, there is a stand-off of sorts currently in place.

Local farmer Brian O'Hagan felt compelled to prevent Coillte from carrying out tree-felling, as he and many other locals feel that the work being carried is out destroying the area.

Brian blocked the road in recent weeks with a digger in order to prevent Coillte from being able to bring their machinery and vehicles into the plantation at Glenboy where they propose to cut down trees and plant new ones.

The first issue, Mr. O'Hagan says, is the method used by Coillte. "They're leaving the countryside in a mess," he told The Sligo Champion.

He says that because the site is on a slope, residue from the tree-felling process would run down to the river which flows underneath.

That river runs into the Bonet River which goes straight into Lough Gill. There was a similar project undertaken around three years ago, when Brian says the area was left in terrible condition afterwards, and a large volume of residue slid into the river.

"No matter what Coillte do there will be a run off into the river there with that slope. It's the method that they use and the damage that it is going to do that is one of the issues."

There are concerns among locals that the large number of wildlife active at the plantation site will be impacted by the work,

"I don't feel as though a proper wildlife survey was done." An active badger den is clearly visible at the plantation site. There have been sightings of a hen harrier in the area too. A group of concerned members of the public visited the site on Sunday to see what could potentially be damaged as a result of any work.

"We also discovered a monster of a nest on Sunday and there was a birdwatching expert with us who said that the nest belongs to a sparrow hawk," Brian said.

"There is plenty of evidence of activity at the site. There has been plenty of sightings of red squirrels there, and they were nearly extinct a few years ago."

They have been left angered by what they claim is Coillte's defiance.

"We feel that Coillte are taking nothing into consideration. There has been no consultation with the local community whatsoever.

"They just rock up and get to work. They bring their big machinery and work around the clock so that they can come in and out as quickly as possible without anyone noticing them."

The roads are another concern: "If it goes ahead it could destroy the roads too. The site that Coillte are working on actually goes through the Leitrim Way, that will destroy it for any of the cyclists or walkers who come through here."

There is no work currently taking place, with contractors leaving to undertake another job. But, locals say they are on alert for the workers' imminent return.

The trees set to be planted are Sitka Spruce, which Brian and many others feel are not suitable. They say a native species would be better suited.

"The trees being planted are of no benefit to anyone. I'd have no problem if they came and felled 50% of the trees for timber and planted back a more useful tree. We've been ignored and things have gone totally out of control. It's time we stood up and made a stand."

Sligo Champion