Call to blacklist Sitka spruce forests as invasive species

Sinn Féin is calling on the Government to stop providing grants and financial incentives to plant the coniferous trees which are the predominant species used in Irish forestry.

Call to blacklist Sitka spruce forests as invasive species

Calls have been made to 'blacklist' fast-growing Sitka spruce trees as an invasive species in a bid to encourage the planting of native broad-leaf forests.

Sinn Féin is calling on the Government to stop providing grants and financial incentives to plant the coniferous trees which are the predominant species used in Irish forestry.

Publishing a document on sustainable afforestation Sinn Féin spokesperson on communications, climate action and the environment David Cullinane said: "We want a different type of afforestation policy to the one that exists at the moment."

The document calls for Sitka spruce trees to be blacklisted and deemed an invasive species. They would not be illegal to plant, however, they would be exempt from Government grants.

"We have seen in some countries, for example, Sitka spruce being banned and being outlawed because it is an invasive species, it doesn't work, it's not good for the surrounding habitat and we end up with these dead forests which we see in some parts of Ireland.

We want a proper mix and that mix has to protect the environment with the right type of trees that are suitable to the conditions in Ireland.

"We are not seeing that at the moment and we are not seeing a proper input for the community and for farmers and local landowners."

Calling for a greater emphasis on sustainable broad-leaf forestry and hedgerows, Mr Cullinane said we must increase the percentage of land under forestry in the mitigation of carbon emissions.

"However, not all plantations are beneficial to the environment, and not all species are beneficial to local habitats," he said.

"We have seen big companies coming in and growing fast-growing conifers, for example. It doesn't properly act as a carbon sink.

"What we are seeing is these empty forests, dead forests that don't do anything for the natural habitat and that don't act as a proper carbon sink."

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