FII Frets Over Draft Hen Harrier Plan: Are Our Majestic Birds at Risk?

Forest Industries Ireland Raises Concerns Over Draft Hen Harrier Threat Response Plan's Impact on Forest Sector

Forest Industries Ireland (FFI), the national trade association within Ibec, has expressed concerns regarding the government’s draft Hen Harrier Threat Response Plan. FFI argues that the plan, which is currently open for public consultation until next week, includes “large-scale actions” that will have a significant impact on the forest sector. These actions reportedly involve restrictions on harvesting operations, forest clearance, and the removal of the obligation to replant forests after clear-felling. Mark McAuley, Director of Forest Industries Ireland, stated that while the forestry sector supports the protection and conservation of all species, there are concerns about certain proposals in the draft plan. He emphasized that clearing forests or eliminating the obligation to replant would have severe negative consequences for the forest sector and hinder the goal of increasing national forest cover.

The government has set a target of achieving 18% forest cover, which is a crucial part of Ireland’s national climate change objectives. McAuley stressed that it is necessary to create more forests in order to sequester carbon and combat climate change. He warned that undermining the forest sector would not only have an impact on the climate but also on jobs and economic activity. McAuley further argued that there is limited evidence to support the notion that existing forestry restrictions have effectively contributed to the conservation of the hen harrier. He claimed that the lack of adequate data has resulted in ineffective policies and measures.

According to McAuley, the draft plan fails to consider the extensive environmental benefits of forestry. He emphasized the importance of adopting a balanced approach that takes into account multiple environmental objectives, rather than solely focusing on one issue. McAuley argued against the contention that large-scale felling of forests would have a positive effect on hen harrier numbers, stating that such an approach would be excessive. He highlighted the uncertainties surrounding the benefits and the potential economic and environmental costs associated with this course of action. McAuley concluded that a more measured and evidence-based approach is required in addressing the conservation of the hen harrier.

The hen harrier is a territorial ground-nesting bird of prey that has experienced significant population declines in recent years. It typically breeds in open upland bog and heather moorland. The draft plan aims to identify actions to address and reverse the key threats and pressures faced by the bird, particularly those arising from the agricultural, forestry, and wind energy development sectors. The proposed actions are specifically targeted at Hen Harrier Special Protection Areas (SPAs), which consist of six breeding and two wintering Hen Harrier SPAs. Interested parties can submit their feedback on the draft plan via email or by post to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) until 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 20, 2024.

Matt Lyons

Matt Lyons

Matt Lyons is the founder of Forestry & Carbon. Matt has over 25 years as a forestry consultant and is invoilved in numerous carbon credit offset projects.

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