The Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association will stage a national conference to highlight concerns made by many of their members on the forestry expansion.
The conference will be attended by a number of public representatives both at home and in Europe.
The event is earmarked for Friday night 19th January starting at 8pm and will be held in the Bush Hotel Carrick-on-Shannon.
The impacts of forestry expansion
Gerry Loftus, the INHFA’s Spokesperson on Forestry spoke ahead of the major conference.
“That the conference will address how the forestry expansion is impacting on farming, communities and the environment. It will also provide the opportunity for those currently living in the shadow of a rapidly increasing forestry belt to come and have their say.”
Citing a report from the Council for Forestry Research and Development (COFORD) which was issued in late 2016 Loftus stated “how an agenda is clearly developing that could see large areas of land in western counties planted.”
The report highlights 1.8 million hectares of land alleged to have limited agricultural activity with 1.08 million hectares suitable for forestry. This he added” accounts to over 25% of the agricultural land and if implemented on the ground will have devastating consequences for counties like Leitrim.”
Provision of a perceived carbon off-set
Loftus said that a significant development in relation to forestry in recent years is the perceived carbon off-set that it can provide. He said that this of course while economically damaging to the forested area could allow for increased economic and agricultural activity in other parts of the country and maybe that is still the agenda.
Loftus said we need to find out exactly what “we want” from forestry and turn our attention to issues including Rural depopulation, Water Quality and the effect it can have on rivers and streams.
With regard to our rural communities, Loftus outlined how difficult the last decade has been through business closures, emigration, unemployment and the withdrawal of services. Farming and the money spent on it is what has kept many of these communities going, stressed Loftus.
Farm families he added “are often what keeps the schools open, the GAA clubs going and the community alive, because for better or worse the farming activity they are involved in keeps them there.”
Loftus concluded by saying that forestry will “never do this”.