Fiery Protesters Rally for Justice for Ash Dieback Farmers

"Forest owners demand government action on ash dieback crisis"

Forest owners, represented by the Limerick and Tipperary Woodland Owners Ltd. (LTWO), assembled outside Leinster House today to voice their frustrations regarding the government’s response to ash dieback. Chair of LTWO, Simon White, expressed the discontent of affected forest owners, labeling the recently announced €79.5 million aid package for farmers and landowners impacted by the disease as inadequate. White criticized Minister for Agriculture, Food, and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, and the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine (DAFM) for their perceived disrespect towards forest owners affected by ash dieback.

Confidence in forestry and private landowners has been severely eroded due to what White described as mismanagement by the department. He highlighted that every issue has been handled unfairly and inadequately, emphasizing the need for fair treatment of individuals. Speaking to Agriland, White stressed the crucial role of trees in combating climate change, urging for government investment to address ash dieback, which he believes will yield significant returns. He warned of potential fines for Ireland’s failure to meet planting targets over the past decade and emphasized the importance of incentivizing tree planting.

Under the Reconstitution Ash Dieback Scheme 2023-2027, owners of ash forests are set to receive financial support for site clearance and replanting. The scheme offers varying amounts depending on the forest type chosen, with additional Climate Action Performance Payments (CAPP) for grant-aided ash forest owners. Minister of State for land use and biodiversity, Pippa Hackett, expressed determination to address the concerns of affected farmers and landowners through the action plan, which aligns with recommendations from an independent review on ash dieback.

The DAFM highlighted the urgency of addressing ash dieback and acknowledged the readiness of a skilled forestry contractor base to undertake the necessary work. The total financial package allocated for ash dieback now stands at €237 million, with new plantings already approved for May 2024. To meet the government’s annual planting target of 8,000ha, the DAFM would need to issue licenses for 667ha per month.

The Great Spruce Bark beetle, a primary concern for Ireland, has not been detected in the country, and biosecurity measures are in place to prevent its introduction. However, White raised concerns about the potential impact of the beetle on new plantations if not adequately addressed. The uncertainty surrounding the future of forestry and the risks posed by pests like the bark beetle have deterred many from engaging in tree planting activities.

Despite the challenges posed by ash dieback and the broader issues facing the forestry sector, there remains a strong desire among forest owners to contribute to Ireland’s environmental goals. Calls for fair treatment, adequate support, and sustainable practices resonate among those who are committed to preserving and enhancing the country’s woodland resources. As discussions continue between stakeholders and the government, the future of forestry in Ireland hangs in the balance, with the need for decisive action to address the pressing challenges at hand.

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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