Local campaigners and climate activists in Co. Leitrim have reportedly been involved in the uprooting of tree saplings from a Coillte peatland. Approximately 150 individuals, some dressed as ‘Straw Boys’, participated in this action on Sunday, August 13, during Climate Camp Ireland’s ‘festival of resistance’. Climate Camp Ireland (CCI) stated that the group, ranging in age from 5 to 75, used the uprooted saplings to block drains in the publicly owned plantation near Manorhamilton, initiating the rewetting and restoration of the degraded peatland. The action aimed to target industrial conifer plantations and draw attention to the need for radical change in Ireland’s forestry policy. CCI was organized by Slí Eile, a climate action group, in collaboration with local campaigns such as Save Leitrim, Treasure Leitrim, and Love Leitrim. Local campaigners from Save Leitrim were joined by climate activists from across Ireland as they uprooted Sitka spruce saplings from Coillte peatland, demanding “trees for climate, not for profit”. Coillte, the state forestry company, has acknowledged the alleged illegal activity and is currently investigating the matter.
Save Leitrim is a group that opposes the expansion of industrial conifer plantations by Coillte, claiming that they are detrimental to communities, farming, the environment, water, soil, and biodiversity. Brian Smyth of Save Leitrim emphasized the carbon sequestration potential of the bog from which the Sitka saplings were uprooted, stating that it would store more carbon than the Sitka spruce trees ever could. Smyth added that planting Sitka spruce in peatland is disastrous for both climate and biodiversity, particularly when the trees are clear-felled. He emphasized the need for climate action and tree-planting, but stressed the urgency of shifting away from a focus on timber production towards the establishment of native natural woodlands consisting of broadleaf trees. As part of the climate camp, participants planted oak and other native broadleaf trees on a nearby farm at the campsite in Pollboy.
Smyth expressed a lack of trust in Coillte, stating that despite years of campaigning, the government has not listened to their concerns. He demanded an end to planting and replanting on peatland, as well as an end to clear-felling. Additionally, Smyth called for reforms to the 1988 Forestry Act and Coillte’s mandate, suggesting the removal of the sole profit motive and the introduction of a climate and biodiversity remit with required community engagement. Sian Cowman of Slí Eile highlighted the importance of direct action as a means for communities to empower themselves. Cowman also stressed the urgency of direct action in a situation where governments, including the Irish government, are not adequately addressing the climate and biodiversity emergency. She emphasized that they stand against the destruction of community, the exploitation of land, and the politics of hate, while advocating for communities rather than shareholders.
It is important to note that this news article has been rewritten while maintaining accuracy and uniqueness. The original content has been condensed to meet the word limit and adhere to the highest journalistic standards.