Forestry

The story of how the Hen harrier became the hostage to the ‘reckless populism of the IFA leadership’ with the areas to be designated reduced from 287,000 hectares to 169,000 hectares. At the demands of the IFA for the ‘constitutional right to achieve optimal returns on your asset’, a further 9,000 hectares of forestry are to be permitted even in the protected areas, though the population fell from 134 to 105 pairs  2000 – 2005 and the Parks and Wildlife Service itself admits that ‘the bottom line is that new planting represents a net loss of foraging habitat'. 

 In four astonishing maps from 1970 to today, track the loss of this bird and the entirely inadequate final areas proposed for protection under the Bird's Directive.

See FNN 177 on 'The vanishing Hen harrier' and the 'consolidation' of the proposed protection areas.

 

See Our Press Release: 'Designations won't save Hen harrier'

 

Listen to FIE on Midland's Radio looking at the background to the designations and the unsustainable national forestry policy that is now 'out of control'.

 

 Read our letter to the Minister and the Report in our library.

 

And see also: Forestry and the fresh water pearl mussel. Irish planting of non-native species in the uplands is now before the European Courts because of the widespread irreversable damage to the Irish environment.


The planning application concerned, at Mount Herbert (a protected structure), Bray, in the words of the  ABP inspector, "proposes to remove existing planting to: (a) construct a new vehicular entrance onto Herbert Road; and (b) construct four no., three storey, four bedroom detached houses..."  (Inspector's report, 2007).  The development in question is on a site which has been the subject of repeated planning refusals, going back to 1986, on the basis that the applications would result in the destruction of trees worthy of protection and designated views and prospects. The most recent refusal was that of An Bord Pleanála (ABP) (PL39.222107) on 26th July 2007 which upheld and reinforced the refusal of BTC.

In essence, the site in question is within the curtilage of a protected structure (noting that the Bray Development Plan, P76 specifies that "In relation to a protected structure, the meaning of the term ‘structure' includes the interior of the structure and land lying within the curtilage of the structure"). 

The site consists of heavily wooded lands that drop steeply down to the River Dargle on the north and to its tributary, the River Swan on the west.  An established small development, Glenwood, lies to the west of a public open space along the River Swan.  The area has been rich in fauna, including red-squirrel, heron, wood pigeon, dipper, wild duck and bats, as indicated in observations on the planning application of December 2006, submitted by residents to Bray Town Council.

 

Present position

What has now happened is that less than six weeks after the refusal by ABP, works commenced on the site on Tuesday 4th Sept ‘07, with the entry of heavy equipment onto the site.  The work is on-going and, despite the protestations of residents, the existing planting has been removed and the site at the protected structure is now denuded of trees and other vegetation. As a result of the ongoing works, the topography of this protected site has been extensively altered. The fear is that a developer might submit a new planning application on the basis that what the site is now effectively a clear site without any "offending" trees. 

 

Contravention of An Bord Pleanála refusal and Bray Development Plan

The removal of the trees flies in the face of both the BTC refusal of planning permission in Jan. 2007 and the refusal of the appeal issued by ABP on 26 July 2007. 

 

Very significantly, the removal of the tree cover is in clear contravention of the current Bray Town Development Plan, which recognises the importance of the views and prospects and of the trees in the Swan River Valley.    In his report, Mr Bryan Ward, ABP Inspector, states that "I consider that the woodland on the application site contributes to the appearance of the area and the removal of a significant number of the trees would seriously detract from the visual amenities of the Swan River valley and Dargle River contrary to the Development Plan designation to preserve woodland and trees on the application site."  The inspector pointed out that "Notwithstanding the lack of a TPO, a ‘Trees, groups of trees and woodland to be preserved' designation applies to the northern part of the site as outlined on Development Plan map 3.  Section 8.4.4.2 of the Development Plan states inter alia that ‘It is the policy of the Council to protect trees, in particular native and broadleaf species, which are of conservation, and/or amenity value.  The Council will seek to preserve and enhance the amenity of the town by preserving in so far as possible, that part of its appearance attributable to trees, woodlands, and hedgerows'". 

 

Despite repeated calls by residents to BTC officials, we have been unable to prevent the extensive damage within the curtilage of the protected structure.  Put simply, there is a feeling that BTC has failed to enforce its own decision and the appeal refusal by ABP.  This is on the basis that the works in hand are just "tree felling".   For our part, we think that the heavy machinery and digging equipment clearly indicate that unauthorised development work is taking place.

 

 

Proceeding without architectural heritage impact assessment

The on-going actions ignore the views of Development Applications Unit within the Department of the Environment which said, when consulted as part of the planning process, that an architectural heritage impact assessment should be carried out, and that substantially revised proposals should be submitted.  The Unit also pointed out that "gardens contribute to the character of protected structures such as this villa, the immediate grounds of the protected structure would be substantially altered, the protected structure was designed as a villa in its own landscaped grounds, it appears that the proposal was formulated with insufficient regard to the effect on the protected structure." 

FIE is seeking the intervention of the Forest Stewardship Council [FSC] over the failures of the Irish Certification Initiative to advance sustainable forestry in Ireland. Read the Complaint.

Read the details in our Forest Network Newsletter and FSC-Watch's take on what is happening in Ireland. [FSC Watch is dedicated to encouraging scrutiny of the Forest Stewardship Council's activities. By doing so, it aims to increase the integrity of the FSC's forest certification scheme.]


FIE is seeking the intervention of the Forest Stewardship Council [FSC] over the failures of the Irish Certification Initiative to advance sustainable forestry in Ireland. Read the Complaint and the details in our Forest Network Newsletter and FSC-Watch's take on what is happening in Ireland. [FSC Watch is dedicated to encouraging scrutiny of the Forest Stewardship Council's activities. By doing so, it aims to increase the integrity of the FSC's forest certification scheme.]

Letter to the Minister for Finance questioning the calculations used to give the value of forestry's carbon sequestration. This is given as far greater than its timber value. But they fail to address the issue of the loss of the carbon sink when peat soils are afforested - 84% of the planting 1990 - 2000.


Brian Cowen, TD,The Minister for Finance,Department of Finance15 March 2006 Re: Budget 2006: Review of Tax Schemes. Forestry Dear Minister; We note your recent publication of the Review of Tax Schemes and in particular that of the forestry sector and would be grateful if you would consider two comments.   1. Changes to the tax and grant structure to encourage sustainable forestry Section 5.4 Recommendations / Options includes the suggestion that the tax free status of woodland gains could be replaced with higher up-front grants and an extension of the period for which the premium is paid. From the environmental perspective, such an alteration to the grant structure would encourage a longer term approach to forestry investment. This would in turn encourage a species mix that included timber with longer rotations, encouraging a forest estate that would include a greater diversity of species with a movement towards management techniques that avoided currently environmentally damaging practices such as clearfelling. Your Review suggests that an evaluation of the effects of these changes could be made, and we write to request that you initiate such an evaluation, particularly in view of your closing comments in relation to Article 88(1) of the European Treaty.    2. Carbon sequestration inaccuracies We are also, inter alia, concerned that the Review’s calculation of carbon sequestration, which is presented as the most valuable asset of the Irish forest estate, is not well informed.  Soil itself is actually the major store of carbon within the forest estate and current management practices disturb the soils releasing a significant proportion of the sequestered carbon. Afforestation on peat soils in particular results in the release of carbon stored in these soils which greatly diminishes if not entirely negates the carbon sequestration value of the timber itself. Historically, as your Report notes, Irish afforestation was designed to ‘absorb unemployment in rural areas’ and occurred predominantly on peat soils. Nor is this situation likely to alter. In fact, the European Environmental Agency released figures last year which show that Irish afforestation on peatland soils formed 84% of Irish afforestation between 1990 – 2000 and our information is that this practice continues unabated. Finally, the calculations for carbon sequestration are based on an annual afforestation level  which the authors of the report have divided by the ‘average’ Yield Class to determine the hectares involved on which they then base their calculations of the value of the carbon sequestered. But the authors make the assumption that the current wood production has come from forests with Yield Class 16. Recent information suggests that 40% of the estate is uneconomic to even harvest – and that in fact the overall average of Coillte’s estate is Yield Class 9 with Sitka spruce falling as low as Yield Class 4. Thus, the figure for the value of the carbon sequestered in the Irish estate given in Table 4 ‘Total benefits of Woodland Relief’ greatly misrepresent the reality.  Conclusion Both of these matters have significant implications for the evaluation of the Tax Scheme relating to forestry.  We would be grateful for the opportunity to make an oral presentation to you and would be pleased to provide documentation to support our comments. Yours, etc.,  Tony Lowes

 

Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) wish to initiate the dispute resolution procedure against the Irish Forestry Certification Initiative Ltd.(IFCI) . IFCI are the body accredited by FSC to develop a certification standard in the Republic of Ireland. There have been ongoing problems since the conception of IFCI in 1999. Despite many attempts to address these issues through participation on the IFCI Steering Committee and more recently through the IFCI grievance procedure no resolution ahs been forthcoming. Unfortunately correspondence from IFCI is unhelpful and often aggressive and there is a reluctance to provide IFCI members with even basic information including minutes of meetings. In addition there are serious concerns in relation to the development and format of the third draft standard
Therefore FIE feel obliged to initiate the FSC informal dispute resolution procedure in order to seek an acceptable resolution on the following key issues: 1. Non-compliance with IFCI accreditation conditions as given by FSC; 2. Non-compliance with IFCI memorandum and articles of Association including the main objects of the Company. 3. IFCI dispute resolution is ineffective 4. Poor membership base which is falling and is dominated by Coillte; Lack of representation on the Steering Committee which is 'self selected' 5. Bias on IFCI Website in favour of the Economic Chamber; 6. Incorrect information presented in the public consultation section on IFCI Website; 7. No input to the first or second draft by the environmental chamber. No evidence of inclusion of environmental and social submissions to the second draft or valid and substantiated rational given as to exclusion of submissions as per recommendation by FSC representative Gemma Boetekes recorded in the minutes of a meeting of 22nd November 2002. 8. The Third Draft has neither been structured nor developed in accordance with FSC Standard requirements. The Third Draft is incomplete and it is impossible to submit to indicators, verifiers and guidance notes that are not present in the draft standard. 9. Unauthorised change of text of Draft National Forest Standard No.3 We propose resolutions for each of these issues. Outline for each dispute with proposed resolution. 1. Non-compliance with IFCI accreditation conditions as given by FSC. Date dispute resolution procedure initiated: 07 December 2006 IFCI are in non-compliance with the following accreditation conditions as set out by FSC: The Working group shall develop an information policy, detailing the procedures for disseminating relevant information to stakeholders about the Working Group and its activities and decisions And The IFCI shall provide evidence that they have continued to make significant efforts to seek additional input and inclusion from environmental and social NGOs to the process. Proposed Resolution The working group develops an information policy detailing the procedures for disseminating relevant information to stakeholders about the Working Group and its activities and decisions. The draft information policy should be sent to IFCI members and stakeholders for consultation and input. The IFCI must make significant efforts to seek additional input and inclusion from environmental and social NGOs to the process, in a polite, inclusive and informative manner. 2. Non-compliance with IFCI memorandum and articles of Association including the main objects of the Company. Date dispute resolution procedure initiated: 12 January 2007 There is non-compliance with at least seven sections of the Memorandum and Articles of Association of Irish Forestry Certification Ltd.(IFCI). These breaches are most serious for two reasons. Firstly in November 2002 FSC International raised their concerns that IFCI had not been in full compliance with their Memorandum and Articles of Association. They pointed out that IFCI is a legal institution and must follow legal requirements. FSC stipulated that 'IFCI are legally obliged to adhere to their Memorandum and Articles of Association IN FULL and must do so in future'. This was not done. Secondly four Directors of IFCI Ltd., were served with a legal notice for non-compliance with Article 6 of the Memorandum and Association of IFCI. This matter was discussed at a Steering Committee meeting dated 2. October.2002. These minutes read as follows: 'Notice served on four directors under Article 6 of the Company. It was agreed that proper procedure may not have been followed at all times and that it was ultimately the responsibility of the Directors. However it was agreed to withdraw the notice subject to the Company being run in accordance with the Memorandum and Articles of Association.' This notice was withdrawn after specific and minuted undertakings were given by the Directors that the Company would be run according to the legal obligations. It is evident now, however, that these undertakings have been consistently disregarded and that the Company is not being and has not been run in accordance with their Memorandum and Articles of Association. These matters are not trivial and raise substantial questions of legal and financial consequence which are of great concern to the stakeholders IFCI was formed to represent. Proposed Resolution The Memorandum and Articles of Association are complied with in full. To aid this the SC or a person or persons appointed by the SC should go through the Memorandum and Articles of Association and compile a document listing, in simple non-legalistic language, the procedures that must be followed. If any part of the Memorandum and Articles of Association are found to be impractical these should be amended at an EGM. Due to the limited resources of IFCI FIE suggest that if an EGM is found to be necessary it occurs in conjunction with this years AGM. 3 IFCI dispute resolution is ineffective; In order to deal with any disputes that may arise IFCI have developed a dispute resolution procedure. (see http://www.irishforestcertification.com/docs/IFCI_dispute_resolution_procedure.doc) . FIE raised seven grievances between December 2006 and March 2007 summarised in Table 1 below. The grievances related to the failure to follow proper procedures, disseminate information and lack of balance between the three chambers. Due to the lack of response and consequent failure to resolve the ongoing disputes FIE made a request to introduce timeframes for these grievances. This request was refused. Following a recent enquiry as to the status of these grievances FIE were informed that IFCI have stated that they do not have the resources to deal with disputes, particularly when so many were coming form one organisation. FIE would like to point the grievances were short, mainly one page documents with proposed resolutions given phased over three months Table 1. Summary of dispute resolutions sought. Details Sent Reminder issued Date of reply date issue resolved at stage 1 Date to stage 2 Reminder issued Response to reminder Grievance over Public Consultation 03-Dec-06 09-Jan-07 15-Jan-07 15-Jan-07 Grievance over unauthorised change of text of draft National Standard No 3 07-Dec-06 09-Jan-07 15-Jan-07 Not resolved 23. Jan 2007 07-Mar-07 none Grievance over Non- compliance with IFCI accreditation conditions as given by FSC 11-Dec-06 09-Jan-07 18-Jan-07 Not resolved 23. Jan 2007 07-Mar-07 none Grievance over Bias in favour of the Economic Chamber 08-Jan-07 18-Jan-07 partly resolved on 18 Jan 07 none Non-compliance with IFCI Memorandum and Articles of Association 12-Jan-07 23-Jan-07 18-Jan-07 Not resolved 27-Feb-07 07-Mar-07 none Non-inclusion of submissions made to draft 2 with no rationale given for their exclusion as per FSC procedure 23-Jan-07 07-Mar-07 none The Third Draft has neither been structured nor developed in accordance with FSC Standard requirements. The Third Draft is incomplete and it is impossible to submit to indicators, verifiers and guidance notes that are not present in the draft standard. 28-Feb-07 ? Incorrect information presented in the public consultation section on IFCI Website. 07-Mar-07 ? 4. Poor membership base which is falling and is dominated by Coillte resulting in a restricted representation on the Steering Committee which is self selected. IFCI became a membership based organisation in 2003 and a total of 113 stakeholders and organisations became IFCI members. . This broke down by chambers into 69 economic, 24 environmental and 20 social members. A total of 6 members of the economic chamber are listed as Coillte members, which represented 9% of the economic membership base and 5% of the total membership base. By 2007 the membership had fallen dramatically to a total of 36. The breaks down by chamber into 24 economic,7 environmental and 5 social members. A total of 7 members of the economic chamber are listed as Coillte members, which now represents 29% of the economic membership base and 19 % of the total membership base. Due to low membership , in particular of the social and environmental chamber, there is inadequate representation of a broader spectrum of stakeholders with an interest in sustainable forestry. Despite having clear direction from FSC that the Steering Committee representatives are to represent their respective chamber members the Steering Committee continue to represent their organisation only. The members are not kept informed or involved in anyway in any of the decision making processes other than at General Meetings of the company. This gives stakeholders no ownership of the process and no reason to become or continue to be IFCI members. Proposed Resolution. Attempts should be made to clarify why stakeholders have not renewed. FIE suggest that one main reason is IFCI are not keeping the membership informed and fully involved in the standard development process. Members must be kept up to date with IFCI processes and their views included in decision making. In most instances this could easily be done by e-mail. 5 Bias on IFCI Website in favour of the Economic Chamber Date dispute resolution procedure initiated: 08-Jan-07 This issues is particularly evident in the downloads section of the IFCI website where the only documents relating to 'aspects of forestry' are for economic aspects. The website contains four documents in relation to the Economic aspects of Irish Forestry three of which have been prepared for Coillte Teoranta and are most inappropriate for the IFCI website. It must be noted that it took numerous requests cumulating in a request for dispute resolution on the 8th January for IFCI to agree to include the FIE review of the economic analysis. Proposed Resolution The website is subjected to a critical review by a representative form each chamber and recommendations are made. These recommendations are collated and taken to the SC for approval. The website is updated accordingly. 6 Incorrect information presented in the public consultation section on IFCI Website; Date dispute resolution procedure initiated: 07-Mar-07 The misleading and incorrect text on the IFCI website text in question states: The development of a draft national forest standard, based upon the FSC principles and criteria, was approached by first formulating an initial draft template based on the UK FSC Standard, where the forest industry in the UK is similar to that which pertains in Ireland. This was called 'Draft 1'. A Technical Working Group (TWG), comprised of a member of the SC from each chamber, worked on Draft 1, and the draft forest standard then agreed by the SC - known as 'Draft 2' - went to a public consultation process. This is not the case. The minutes of December 13th 1999 inform us that: 'Declan Little stated that although there was no input (to the draft) by the environmental chamber. It was very important that the environmental chamber did not now disown the Draft Standard which has been developed by the other members of the Technical Working Group. Iva Pocock requested that NGOs be allowed to comment in writing on the Draft before it is sent to public consultation. This proposal was not accepted by the other members of the Steering Committee because it was felt that reasonable opportunity had already been afforded to this part of the process'. Proposed Resolution The text on the IFCI website must be amended immediately to reflect what actually happened. It must clearly state that the environmental chamber had no input into 'Draft 1' or 'Draft 2'. 7..No input to the first or second draft by the environmental chamber. No evidence of inclusion of environmental and social submissions to the second draft or valid and substantiated rational given as to exclusion of submissions as per recommendation by FSC representative Gemma Boetekes recorded in the minutes of an IFCI Steering Committee meeting of 22nd November 2002. Date dispute resolution procedure initiated: 23-Jan-07 (second point only). In relation to non-inclusion of submissions made to the Draft national Forest Standard No. 2 with no rationale given for their exclusion as per FSC procedure. In particular we refer to the joint NGO submission co-ordinated by VOICE and funded by the Heritage Council. The main issues of concern highlighted in this submission have been consistently ignored with no valid reason given. E.g species mix, clearfell size, LISS etc. FIE wish to see details of how all submissions received by IFCI from all stakeholders have been considered and where not included VALID reasons given supported by peer reviewed research. Proposed Resolution During the assessment of the submission by the TWG Coillte had given a commitment to provide secretarial support for the TWG this but it did not appear to be forthcoming. I took notes of my own by hand on the actual submissions. When I resigned my position of secretary the incoming secretary collected all IFCI documents including submissions with my notes on them (albeit brief) of why submissions were rejected. At this point I communicated to the incoming secretary that his was a requirement and should be done and that Coillte had originally offered secretarial support. She later suggested that I may consider doing this task but this was not followed up. So what to do now? This is an important part of the process but clocks cannot be turned back. FIE suggest that this time a valid and substantive reason is given for any non-inclusion of submissions and a right of reply is given to stakeholders. This would allow stakeholders to provide further supporting information. If their supporting information is also rejected an additional valid and substantive reason must be given. 8. The Third Draft has neither been structured nor developed in accordance with FSC Standard requirements. The Third Draft is incomplete and it is impossible to submit to indicators, verifiers and guidance notes that are not present in the draft standard. Date dispute resolution procedure initiated: February 28, 2007 FSC documentation states that a FSC certification standard must be based upon the ten principles and 56 criteria as defined by FSC. The Irish FSC certification standard is supposed to give indicators as to how the FSC Principles and Criteria are to be achieved and give means of verification. On compiling the FIE submission it was found that the basic structure of the document did not allow an assessment of whether the IFCI interpretation (indicator) adequately represented a particular FSC Criterion. In order to evaluate the importance of these issues FIE referred to FSC Publication Structure and Content of Forest Stewardship Standards FSC-STD-20-002 (Version 2-1) EN © 2004 (see http://www.fsc.org/keepout/en/content_areas/77/134/files/FSC_STD_20_002_V2_1_EN_Structure_and_Content_Forest_Steward.pdf ) Through this evaluation it became evident that the draft standard does not comply with the FSC standards requirements which are very clearly defined in the FSC document referred to above. In addition the Third Draft is incomplete. For example, although the SLIMF Guidelines are referred to in the Third Draft the document circulated for consultation does not contain any details relevant to the FSC Standard. In the Irish context this is a most significant failure as the average size of a private plantain/woodland is given as 9 hectares. There is not even a link to the SLIMF Guidelines on the IFCI Website. Criterion 4,4 is missing from the Third Draft . Other Criterion have not been assigned indicators and/or verifiers for example FSC Criterion 10.6, 10.8, and 10.9. Proposed Resolution FIE submit that the Third Draft shall be withdrawn in order to be restructured and rewritten where necessary in order to fulfill FSC Standards requirements.. An alternative would be to request permission for FSC UK to use the UKWASFSC standard. As either option process will result in significant changes to the third draft an opportunity must be made to stakeholders to make submission to the revised Third Draft. To save expense, direct contact could be limited to those who have submitted to date. FIE propose that prior to this consultation submissions made to the draft be included in the relevant section. i.e. submissions made to each Criterion are included in the Third Draft in the appropriate place. This will further inform and guide the process. 9 Unauthorised change of text of Draft National Forest Standard No.3 Date dispute resolution procedure initiated: 07 December 2006 There was alteration of the text in the third draft standard without the consent or knowledge of all the members of the Steering Committee. The text in question is on page vi, paragraph four, line five which states: 'Most P & Cs were interpreted by IFCI; those that were not are highlighted in pink text (i.e. FSC P & C 10.6, 10.8 & 10.9 pgs 49 & 50) and these will be informed by the public consultation process'. Proposed Resolution This was not approved by the Steering Committee and should be removed. June 17, 2007