Coillte Consultation Opportunity

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IFSA encourages our members to respond to Coillte’s Forest Five Year Plans. It is your opportunity to engage with the ‘custodians of 7% of Ireland’s land’. The consultation period runs until Friday 1st May 2020.

See Coillte’s statement below: 

Coillte’s current BAU Strategic plans (forest five year plans) are due for review at the end of 2020.

With your help, Coillte will produce draft forest plans for the period 2021 – 2025 in the coming months. During this time we invite stakeholders to engage with us and submit their recommendations into this consultation process.

There will be 4 stages in this public consultation process as outlined below  :

Phase How it works Timeline
Phase 1 6 week public consultation when initial submissions are received March-May 2020
Phase 2 Coillte review and acknowledge all submissions received during Phase 1 May 2020
Phase 3 Draft plans formulated and published.  6 week public consultation when feedback and further submissions are received June-July 2020
Phase 4 Coillte review all stakeholder submissions to draft plan and produce final plan August-September 2020

We are inviting you to review our current plans which are available on our website (link – current plans) and submit your views and recommendations during Phase 1.  This public consultation period runs from Monday 23rd March 2020 until Friday 1st May 2020 (6 weeks). Submissions may be sent by email to consultation@coillte.ie or by post to :-

Ms Sharon Byrne, Coillte, First Floor, Block B, Marlinstown Office Park, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath.

Please visit the Current Consultation (link) section of Coillte’s website to find out more about this consultation process.

One thought on “Coillte Consultation Opportunity

  1. To whom it may concern,
    I would like to take this opportunity to address my concerns regarding Coillte’s plan of action for the coming 5 years. These concerns primarily centre around biodiversity and habitat, opportunities for climate change mitigation, and apprehensions relating to the excessive planting of Sitka spruce in Ireland. Furthermore, there are some specific points in the proposed Plan for BAU 5 that I take issue with.
    The first point I would like to address are my concerns for the biodiversity and potential habitats in Irish forests, including the implications of planting and maintaining non-native monocultures such as Sitka spruce, as compared to native broadleaf trees.
    Ireland is experiencing a biodiversity crisis. In 2000, The Irish Forest Biodiversity Guidelines stated that 15% of forested areas should be incorporated into Areas for Biodiversity Enhancement. Over the last twenty years there have been numerous biodiversity initiatives, throughout this time the Dáil Éireann accepts that we have still seen a decline in the conservation of some protected habitats and species. [1] It is vital for the protection of Ireland’s wildlife that areas are created and maintained with the primary goal of fostering wild habitats and sustaining biodiversity. I, along with many others, feel that the 20% of land that Coillte aims to use to promote biodiversity is merely a token gesture and not adequate given the current state of species decline. Given the evidence outlines, it is clear that more ambitious and stringent guidelines are required. [2] I believe that a growing majority of Coillte land should be used to promote biodiversity, with the ultimate goal of all land being used to promote biodiversity. This is compatible with commercial forestry.
    The above Forest Planning and management tool from UCC also states that species richness is typically high at the beginning and end of the commercial forest cycle and richness is lowest during the closed-canopy middle stages, especially in conifer plantations. Thus, structural diversity is highly important and Sitka spruce monocultures are particularly damaging. Commercial wood harvesting strategies such as coppicing and pollarding help to create the structural heterogeneity required to promote biodiversity. This allows for biodiversity protection and commercial forestry, as coppiced trees can be harvested after 8-15 years. [3]
    FORESTBIO have shown that inclusion of some broadleaved species in conifer plantations has little impact on biodiversity, though it does provide increased habitat for (and thus incidence of), species adapted to living in broadleaved trees. Unless extremely careful management takes place, the growth of secondary tree species is suppressed by faster-growing commercial conifers. With the loss of ash and elm due to fungal diseases, the need for resilient habitats with native biodiversity becomes evermore urgent. In the UK, the Woodland Trust states that: “woodland sites planted with non-native trees (mainly conifers), […] require very sensitive management. These sites are in urgent need of restoration to native broadleaf trees, as the non-native conifers cast heavy shade and acidify the soil disturbing the delicate ecological balance.”
    Specifically, I refer now to the 5 year plan for BAU 5, where section 3.2, key objective 2 states that ‘’In the SE Leinster BAU, Coillte aims to replant approximately 3,409 hectares by 2020’’. This does not specify the species to be replanted. As per Irish Wildlife Trust recommendations, it is my belief that “replanting should be done with community participation and integrate the variety of public services as described. New areas of native woodlands should be identified in uplands, on degraded peatlands and along river corridors. Agroforestry could allow this alongside animal husbandry and biodiversity aims, as exists in countries such as Norway.’’ [4] Furthermore, from IWT: ‘’Ireland currently faces significant environmental challenges, and in particular with meeting targets established under the Water Framework Directive, the Habitats and Birds Directives and legally binding reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time there are widespread concerns regarding economic and population decline in rural Ireland. Developing a radically different approach to forestry, by moving away from monoculture plantations, and towards biodiverse native forests, can help to achieve all of these aims’’.
    In the response document to concerns raised during the previous consultation period, Coillte states that ‘’We implement alternative silvicultural systems on certain sites, where site conditions are suitable and/or where there are overriding environmental or social reasons to do so’’. As per the above findings, I feel that these alternative silvicultural systems (e.g. continuous cover forestry) should be implemented to a greater degree — not so much as an ‘alternative’ but as a first choice. The Irish Wildlife Trust have stated that a greater degree of forest cover is needed in Ireland, and says that ‘’it should include a mix of forest establishment with minimal extractive pressure (i.e. where nature conservation is the principle aim) and woodlands managed for commercial purposes, on the basis of ‘continuous cover’ forestry’’. Crann and the Woodland League have also called for Coillte to carry out more diverse planting and continuous coverage forestry, the norm on the European mainland. [5]
    As Coillte have stated in BAU 5 plan that ‘’the introduction of LISS systems can only be achieved gradually and can take up to a rotation length to complete’’, implementation of these systems should begin as soon as possible so that their effects can be felt. The IWT have also said that ‘’The employment opportunities and carbon storage from the production of [low quality] timber do not come close to matching the potential value of native forests when social and environmental considerations are taken into account’’.
    Furthermore, I would like to address Ireland’s shortcomings in terms of climate change mitigation. In 2018, Ireland, for the second year in a row, was rated worst in the European Union by the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI). [6] As a forestry organisation, Coillte should be at the forefront of climate change mitigation. As a State-owned business, Coillte has unparalleled opportunity to be at the forefront of climate action in Ireland. Research published in the journal Nature has shown that for forests to sequester carbon long term, they must be able to “resist, recover or adapt” to changes and that there is “growing evidence that such functional resilience is strongly determined by factors such as ecosystem connectivity, heterogeneity and diversity at multiple ecological levels”. [7] This provides further evidence for the need to transition from non-native monocultures to broadleaf forestry. As pointed out by Oliver et al., “reactive management might be too slow to avert consequent deficits in [ecosystem] function, with impacts for societal well-being”. They provide an analogy of monitoring whether a bridge is standing or collapsed — “as opposed to monitoring and repairing damage to prevent the collapse from ever happening”.
    Finally, I would like to talk about non-forested Coillte land. It is very exciting to read about Coillte’s peatland habitat restoration. As you are aware, peatlands hold 25% of the world’s carbon but cover only 2–3% of terrestrial areas. [8] Additionally, they are bountiful reserves of biodiversity. It is important that peatlands continue to be protected and restored by Coillte. I believe that Coillte should do all that it can to prevent afforestation on peatland, as the land-use change is harmful to biodiversity and carbon sequestration. [9]
    Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. I am eager to see how Coillte will change its land management practices over the next five years to protect Irish biodiversity and mitigate climate change.
    Best wishes,

    Mark Townson
    Bantry

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