Donal Hickey: Turning over a new leaf

Donal Hickey: Turning over a new leaf
Ireland is near the bottom of the league of EU countries when it comes to forestry, but that may be set to change.

Ireland is near the bottom of the league of EU countries when it comes to forestry, but could we be on the brink of an all-out, tree-planting blitz?

If so, we’ll go for native species, hopefully. Given the effects of global warming and how useful trees are for storing carbon, there’s every reason to get more saplings into the earth.

Most of us have an attachment to at least one tree and they continue to inspire us. They are part of our mythology; our ancestors treated some trees as sacred. It was once a serious offence to cut down certain trees and some people believed the roots reached into that other mysterious world beneath the sod where the fairies lived.

Reminders have reached us about National Tree Week on March 21-27, with offers of free trees to those willing to plant them. Coillte, which is again partnering the Tree Council of Ireland for the event, is donating 30,000 native trees for planting during the week, doubling numbers on previous years.

Almost half a million trees have been planted during National Tree Week since 1989. This year’s theme is healthy trees, healthy planet.

Trees on the Land, an organisation based in Manch Estate, Ballineen, Co Cork, uses a network of professionals, volunteers, land-owners, and businesses to spread Irish-grown trees. The focus is on oak, alder, rowan, willow, hawthorn, and hazel trees. Native pine species are also distributed. 

Trees on the Land runs an annual tree-planting event where landowners countrywide plant on a selected Saturday in February.

The aim is to establish tree cover in rural and urban areas that will grow for many years and provide valuable resources, beneficial ecosystem services, and a lasting legacy for future generations.

Since 2013, more than 1m trees have been planted under the aegis of the organisation at several thousand locations, including small and larger woodlands, coppices, orchards, hedgerows, shelter belts, and reafforestation.

Last month, Co Laois received a donation of 12,000 trees and shrubs from the organisation, which were distributed to community groups to provide cover for public spaces and gardens. The trees will create around 1.6km of new hedgerows and several small copses of woodland and will increase the numbers of native wildlife-friendly trees in gardens in the county. 

However, the real beauty about Trees on the Land is its focus on native trees, as distinct from conifers which, controversially, have dominated Irish forestry for decades.

Last year, over 300 events took place during National Tree Week. More parents and teachers are urged to get involved, to educate children about trees and their importance to rural and urban environments.

https://www.treecouncil.ie/

https://www.coillte.ie/

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