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AS the level of afforestation in Ireland falls to a 20-year low, the Department of the Environment must immediately examine the barriers to afforestation erected on very dubious scientific grounds.
It is a national disgrace to witness such low levels of afforestation when there is such a massively underutilised land bank surplus to agricultural requirements and ideally suited to forestry.
Ireland’s new wood chip and wood pellet industries are supplying energy at up to 60% saving on dirty, imported oil. Our vibrant rural-based sawmilling and timber-processing industries need more sawlogs, so it is imperative that the level of new forest planting be increased massively.
Environment Minister John Gormley must remove the blanket ban and the precautionary principle approach which are devastating the strategic plan for the development of the forestry sector (1996). Today, instead of lowering the afforestation targets in this plan (due to the very obvious reasons for under-achievement), environmental and political leadership is urgently needed to rally behind our vibrant renewable sector.
Farmers need the option to diversify into forestry. It is inexcusable that there are job losses in the forestry sector when the potential for further sustainable growth is immense.
Mr Gormley is fighting to get Brussels to allow Irish forests to be counted as carbon sinks. I would really like to see him fighting for Irish afforestation and its vital role in clean energy and combating climate change.
John J Jackson
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