Searching for sustainable forests

  • 28 April 2005
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A campaign to combat plantation-style forestry in Ireland has been launched by the Woodland League, an organisation that aims to restore the relationship between communities and their native woodlands.


The campaign is directed at the semi-state forestry company, Coillte, which owns some seven per cent of land in Ireland, approximately 440,000 hectares.

The Woodland League have alleged that Coillte's plantations of the sitka spruce tree contribute to pollution, kill native flora, create a greater risk of insect infestation and require a higher rate of insecticide use than indigenous broadleaf forests.

The League also claims that Coillte's policies are environmentally unsustainable and pursue a narrow remit of economic return at the expense of broader social concerns.

Ciaran Hughes, secretary of the Woodland League, accused Coillte of planting "over 90 per cent near-monoculture foreign exotic species," and thereby being in breach of the United Nations convention on biological diversity and other international agreements.

The League want "a reform of forest policy," he said, and "want to attempt to revert to the more environmentally, socially, spiritually and ultimately economically-beneficial forestry of the past".

Gerry Egan of Coillte disputed the allegations. "While we are unashamedly a commercial forestry company, we do strive for balance between the achievment of environmental, social and economic objectives," he said. Coillte is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and is also assessed as part of the the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants' Sustainability Reporting Awards, he said. "Our standards of forest management are judged against the best worldwide, independent organisations."

Colin Murphy