I’m delighted to write that a new local forest directory has been created. It follows on from the 2006 ‘local project’ film & exhibition, a project where I documented an innovative 15 year old community foresty project in south Leitrim. The film and exhibtion were supported by the Dock in Carrick-on-Shannon and Crann.
Some of the people involved in the ‘local project’, saw that the exhibtion & film highlighted a new resource of local woodland knowledge, skills, and timber, that had been growing silently since the 15 years when the Forest Service had substantially supported the initial plantings (16 sites on over 300 acres), in the Crann-led project. Terry McGrogan, Niall Miller and Jan Alexander, got together and approached Leitrim Partnership for funding, and the Leitrim Organic Farmers Co-op for producing a small directory of all the original ‘local project’ woodland owners and anyone else in the Leitrim area involved with woodlands, forestry, their management and timber users. (I hope to organise a website directory from this too, if time allows).
Since writing this post, I understand that afforestation grants for broadleaves remain as they were but all the other grants that I have listed below have been suspended. I couldn’t find this information on the Forest Service website, but a forester has assured me that the afforestation grants remain.
Sadly, the timing of the Local Forest and Timber Directory has coincided with the Irish government announcing it is suspending most of its funding schemes to encourage landowners to plant native (broadleaf) woodlands. Gone are funding schemes for roading (needed to extract trees), reconstitution of woodland (no compensation now for frost or fire damage), high pruning, shaping of broadleaves (so important to improve the sale quality of timber), the native woodland scheme, the woodland improvement scheme and the neighbourwood schemes. All these were incentives to bring back a forest culture. Its ironic really, Ireland has has some of best growing conditions in Europe for producing timber (the trees have loved this wet summer by the way, mine have shot up another few feet), and I know many EU foresters scratch their heads to understand why Ireland can’t see that forestry offers such a valuable & sustainable resource, and a proven means to invigorate local economies.
How is it that we know that forests are hugely important in regulating climate change, sustaining biodiversity etc, that we know Ireland is increasingly dependent on importing wood as an energy source (not to mention that it is still one of the worst offenders for importing tropical wood), that news of the forest grants cuts are not making headlines?; I saw news of it in the Crann magazine, of course, and a small letter to the Editor in the Irish Times. Sadly, in county Carlow where I live, one million oak plants destined for the Native Woodland scheme growing in a Coilte nursery will also not have a home.
Personally, I think there will be more interest in forestry in the coming years, the increasing price of other finite fuel sources will see to that! Some of our EU neighbours have long known the value of sustainable, continuous-cover forestry but unfortunately forests are a ‘slow fuel’, their quiet growing almost completely overlooked by the media of this mad, fast world. Forest management isn’t rocket science, all it requires is some long-term, consistent planning and investment – clearly, sadly lacking in current day Ireland. The return on investment to a community in the ‘local project’ is something to remember, perhaps?