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The Government’s proposal to sell off the harvesting rights of Coillte’s most productive forests for up to 80 years shows a lack of commitment to the forestry sector.
The growth and job potential of our woodlands will not be realised if our political leaders covertly forward-sell the State’s timber harvesting rights to pay government bank debt.
Robbing this wealth from the forestry sector will cause serious damage to the entire Irish timber and wood energy industries, and to the services which our woodlands provide freely to us all. The true value of Irish and global forests has never been acknowledged due to the low “inside-forest-gate” log accounting values, which give no recognition to the added value and jobs sustained in the wood energy and timber processing plants.
Irish forests provide 150 recreational woodlands which had more than 18 million visits last year. Our trees clean the air we breathe and provide vast sanctuaries for our flora and fauna. The devaluation of woodlands contributes to deforestation. It is environmental sabotage.
The State and our politicians have an appalling record in achieving value for money for its citizens, in relation to the selling or leasing of Ireland’s natural resources such as fishing, gas and oil.
Today, saw-log prices are reaching all time highs due to growing global demand for timber and clean wood energy. Our €2 billion-a-year Irish timber industry, employing 16,000 people, can easily double in size as we have a vast underutilised land bank ideally suited to afforestation, combined with a rapid tree growth. EU forest cover is 35% compared with 11% forest cover in Ireland.
It is vital that the Government re-evaluates its forestry policy and adopts a job-positive approach by doubling Ireland’s forest cover, thus creating sustainable employment and contributing to the control of climate change. It will be a rewarding investment for us, and for future generations.
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