Meeting our tree targets must be an environmental priority

As Ireland continues to fail to meet its forestry targets, efforts are being redoubled to urge people to plant more trees, writes Donal Hickey

Meeting our tree targets must be an environmental priority

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed has said farmers in every county should be “obliged” to consider tree-planting to help meet climate change commitments.

Grants are being increased to encourage farmers and landowners, but we’re still well short of targets. In 2018, 4,025 hectares were planted whereas the target was 6,005 hectares.

It’s easy to admire the beauty of trees adorning this country, regardless of the season. There are sylvan vistas on every hillside and around every turn. For instance, anybody regularly travelling the N22 Cork/Kerry road has to be impressed by the magnificent trees and woodlands around the twin villages of Ballyvourney and Ballymakeera.

This is especially so now as the leaves change colour, providing a rich palette to catch the eye. With so much controversy over the planting of sitka spruce and other non-native trees, a project to boost native trees is to be welcomed. People in the Ballyvourney area and the wider Muskerry gaeltacht are being urged to get more into tree-planting under the Native Woodland Scheme (NWS).

Behind the move is local Dúlra Beo group, which aims to nurture nature and the local environment and get involved in awareness-raising projects. Dúlra Beo plans to develop conservation areas for pollinators and other local wildlife species whilst engaging within the local community to generate pride in all of nature, heritage and landscape. This area has a reputation for fine, natural food and, in 2017, a beekeepers’ association, Cumann Bheachairi Mhuscrai, was formed in Ballyvourney. It has 30 members and a training apiary.

Back to trees. The NWS aims to reverse centuries of decline in native woodland. The target is to manage 950 hectares of old and existing woodlands and to create 1,050 hectares of new native woodland up to 2020. “A lot of native woodland is the Cork/Kerry region is suitable for conservation,” says Rosai Nic Charthaigh, of Dulra Beo.

Each new woodland must include trees which are suitable for a particular site. Oak, birch and holly are mentioned. Wood production is a secondary aim, but it is possible.

Meeting our tree targets must be an environmental priority

Declan Little, project manager, Woodlands of Ireland, will speak at an information meeting in the Ionad Culturtha, Ballyvourney, at 8.30pm, this Monday, October 14.

Dulra Beo, meanwhile, is halfway through a series of talks. Subjects such as bats, food from the wild and how to identify bumblebees have already been covered. Upcoming lectures in Ballyvourney focus on matters as diverse as waste reduction in the home, the use of natural surroundings in design, medicinal herbs and planting for pollinators.

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