Forestry and the Environment

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					Forestry and the Environment
Ireland has the most favourable climate for growing trees in the
EU, yet has one of the lowest proportions of tree cover. The
country is also reliant to a very significant extent on imports to
satisfy domestic demand for wood products. For these and other
reasons the Irish forestry sector has changed considerably in the
past 15 years, and will continue to do so into the foreseeable

Key Issues
          The strategic plan for the Irish forestry sector sets a national afforestation
          target of 20,000 hectares per annum to the year 2030. If the strategy’s
          target is achieved it will mean that 1% of the total land area of Ireland will
          be afforested every three years.        Such a large change will have a
          significant impact on the countryside and it is important that afforestation
          policy capitalise on the positive environmental benefits of forestry.

          Forestry plantations and other vegetation sequester carbon. Under the
          Kyoto Protocol, sequestration of carbon by new forestry may be counted
          towards meeting Ireland’s net greenhouse gas emissions growth limitation
          target. The increased forest coverage will help reduce our net emission of
          greenhouse gases and contribute towards achieving compliance with our
          Kyoto commitments.

          In the past forest policies favoured commercial planting of fast-growing,
          coniferous species, such as Sitka Spruce. However, uniform, monoculture
          plantations of coniferous trees can be of limited biological diversity value.
          Greater benefits in terms of landscape, amenity, heritage and habitats can
          be realised from forestry plantations that also include native, and broadleaf

          The interaction of forestry plantations and certain pollutants in the
          atmosphere (e.g. sulphur dioxide) can change the chemical composition of
          rain, as it falls through the forest canopy, which in turn can lead to the
          acidification of surface waters. Certain water bodies in the west of Ireland
          and Wicklow are susceptible to this process of acidification, which is
          harmful to aquatic ecosystems.

          Forestry activities can lead to the eutrophication of rivers and lakes.
          Fertilising plantations established on soils with poor capacity to hold
          phosphorus, or erosion due to soil disturbance subsequent to planting or
          clear-felling, may lead to the nutrient enrichment of run-off waters.
                            Most forestry activities create some degree of soil disturbance. Where that
                            disturbance is substantial soil is transported by surface water run-off into
                            streams and rivers where it can damage aquatic wildlife (e.g. fish and
 VIEWPOINT                  invertebrates) and habitats (e.g. spawning beds).
              Environmental Protection Agency’s Role
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              While the EPA has no direct role in regulating forestry activities, it has identified acid-
              sensitive areas nationally, and in collaboration with the Forest Service agreed a protocol
              for forest management in such areas. The EPA’s reports on ‘Water Quality in Ireland’
              identify acid sensitive catchments and also indicate that forestry operations are
              suspected as the cause of pollution in a number of locations.

              The EPA has funded research projects to determine best forestry management practices
              for prevention and amelioration of impacts of forestry operations on the acidification of
              aquatic systems, as well as research determining forestry’s impact on phosphorus levels
              in waters.

              The Forest Service
              The Forest Service is responsible for the sustainable development of forestry within
              Ireland, seeking to increase quality planting and promote the planting of diverse species.
              Through the promotion of research and training it hopes to improve performance,
              compatible with the environment, and encourage increased employment in the sector.

              Sustainable Forestry Management is supported by the Irish National Forest Standard,
              The Code of Best Forest Practice, and a range of environmental and forestry guidelines
              relating to water quality, landscape, archaeology, biodiversity, harvesting, fertilisation
              and forest protection.

              The Forest Service works in partnership with Local Authorities to identify suitable areas
              for forestry, through a development process of Indicative Forest Strategies. The Forest
              Service operates under the auspices of the Department of Agriculture and Food.

              COFORD - The National Council for Forest Research &
              COFORD coordinates and funds research relating to the industrial, social, environmental
              and cultural aspects of forestry. COFORD is also involved in the dissemination of forest
              research findings, and it advises the Minister for Agriculture and Food on programmes of
              research and for the sustainable development of the forest industry.
              EPA Recommends
                 1.      Given the proposed expansion of forestry over the next quarter century, it
                         is imperative that legislation, guidelines and methods of best forest practice
                         are enforced to ensure that sustainable forestry management is being
                         implemented successfully.
ENVIRONMENT      2.      It is also imperative that legislation and guidelines be kept under review to
  PAGE 3                 ensure that forestry regulatory mechanisms are appropriate to evolving
                         circumstances, and ensure that forestry developments enhance the
                         environment (landscapes, biodiversity, habitats, ecosystems).

                 3.      Greater attention should be paid to achieving the 30% broadleaf planting
                         target. In addition, broadleaf forestry planting targets should be managed
                         at a regional rather than plantation level, thus creating a critical mass of
                         broadleaf plantations for achieving environmental and biodiversity benefits.

                 4.      Forestry managers and owners should take on board biodiversity and
                         general environmental considerations over the full forestry cycle from
                         ground preparation to harvesting.

                         Total forest cover in Ireland is approximately 700,000 hectares or 10% of
                         the surface area.

                         Over 14,000 farmers are engaged in forestry with the number expected to
                         increase to approximately 20,000 by 2007.

                         The annual volume of timber produced from Irish forests is around 3 million
                         cubic metres and projected to increase to over 8 million cubic metres by

                         The supply of timber from private forestry is expected to rise steadily to
                         over 1 million cubic metres by the year 2015, accounting for 20% of the
                         total potential roundwood supply.

                         The forest sector’s product mix is also anticipated to change with sawlog
                         production increasing significantly with a corresponding drop in production
                         of pulpwood.

              September 2006

      AND THE
PO Box 3000
Johnstown Castle Estate
       PAGE 4
County Wexford, Ireland
T +353 53 9160600
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Regional Inspectorates
Regional Inspectorate
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Dublin 14
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Regional Inspectorate
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Regional Inspectorate
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Regional Inspectorate
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County Mayo
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Regional Inspectorate
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Regional Offices
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