Forestry Network

17 000 hectares ? Formaldehyde, an industry cover up? Standish Sawmill. Review, Irish Birds. Approval given for 17,000 hectares of forestry since start of this year. Forestry growers being hit by cross compliance. Coillte's and Forestry's blind gallop.


17 000 hectares ?
Formaldehyde, an industry cover up?
Standish Sawmill.
Review, Irish Birds

Approval given for 17,000 hectares of forestry since start of this year
Forestry growers being hit by cross compliance

Coillte's and Forestry's blind gallop

Formaldehyde, an industry cover up?.



Anne Behan
It is with great sadness that FNN reports the death of Dr Anne Behan, the Kildare environmentalist. Anne was one of the most respected of the independent environmental consultants who did much to ensure that Irish ENGOs were informed in their submissions by scientific accuracy. She was invariably generous with her time to the many who sought her assistance. She had the writer's gift of explaining complex scientific issues to an ordinary reader. Anne inherited from her father a true love of nature, and believed that by showing others, especially children, the wonders of our natural environment they would grow to become the defenders and protectors of our world. May she rest in peace.


1.1 17,000 hectares?

It is difficult to understand the Minister's announcement that 17,000 hectares of afforestation have been approved for grant aid this year. [NEWS]

It is unlikely, given the long delay in reaching this decision, that it would be physically possible to plant this number of hectares in the remains of the planting season.

And, to judge by the poor take up this year so far, it is questionable if the new Minister for Forestry is not retreating to his Department's 'pie in the sky' projections given in the 1996 Strategic Plan for Forestry. That Department of Agriculture plan, and its justification of 'critical mass', is thoroughly discredited. Yet what we are heating now appears to recognise none of this - the missed targets, the Timber Industry Development Group Report [TIDG] - or the environmental issues.

17,000 hectares would in fact be the greatest number of hectares printed since the Plan was published 8 years ago. Can this possibly be achieved in a truncated planting season against a backgroup of great uncertainty in the farming community over the effects of decupling and CAP reform?

If this is the Minister's best effort at sorting out Irish forestry, environmentalists and foresters alike have a problem.

1.2 Formaldehyde, an industry cover up?

On a visit to Willamette Europe Ltd. (Now Weyerhauser) manufacturers of the 'Medite' brand of medium density fibreboard (MDF), a mainstay of the poor quality conifers grown in Ireland, one question that no-one wanted to answer was 'what are the adhesives used in your product'. Listening them fumble for a reply was almost laughable…' um resin, ' just keep looking them in the eye long enough and you might get 'ummm urea resin' . And eventually , maybe because at this stage they probably know that you know the answer anyway the dreaded word formaldehyde enters the equation, 'urea formaldehyde resin', a toxic chemical acknowledged to cause sick building syndrome and sensitise people to chemicals, a potential carcinogen and a possible cause of foetal damage. Germany has brought in strict limits in its E1 standard and the EU are likely to take up a similar stance. Other countries such as America give health warnings, people are told that their homes are partially constructed from material that emits a potential carcinogen that may also lead to foetal damage.
Nice stuff.
The only information FNN could glean on the emission levels permitted here in Ireland was from the Health and Safety Authority who informed us that the maximum levels permitted are 2 parts per million or 2.5 milligrams per cubic metre in the work place and assured us that the same maximum levels would apply in the home, this is seven times higher than in the USA (0.3 ppm) and 20 times higher than permitted emission levels in Germany (0.1 ppm). To summarise twenty times more formaldehyde is permitted in Irish homes than in German homes

And in Ireland what are we told about safety aspects of this product. FNN rang a number of major timber retail outlets enquiring about MDF. We asked specific questions about any particular safety hazards that may be associated with dust and adhesives used in this manufactured board product and were assured that there are absolutely none.
Not according to fact sheets available in the UK written as far back as 1997 which state that formaldehyde is an 'Irritant at low levels to eyes, mucous membranes, nose and throat. Can sensitise skin (dermatitis) and respiratory system (asthma and rhinitis). Increases risk of cancer. Some evidence of reproductive hazards and ability to damage a foetus. Formaldehyde resin continues to emit vapour after it has hardened'

And not according to the lawyers in the states, the industries cover up was exposed.

FNN asks why the best EU standards limit emissions to 0.1 ppm while Ireland is happy to accept 20 times this limit.

(Read more in Full Reports)

1.3 Standish Sawmills.
Standish Sawmill have once again applied for planning permission for retention of the unauthorised plant which uses the chemical, copper chromium arsenic, to treat timber. In 2002 the EPA found that water bodies adjacent to the sawmill were polluted with chromium IV a known carcinogen infamous from the film 'Erin Brockovich' based on actual events in the USA. Erin Brockovich posed the question at a public hearing in the USA ; "Why would you want to drink poison?".

Chromates can also irritate the eyes, nose, throat, lungs and skin.
In a letter sent to Offaly County Council, Dr Ken Macken of the EPA said T & J Standish was told by the agency to "immediately cease the discharge of polluting matter to waters". And also made the following order:

"T & J Standish (Roscrea) Ltd is required under notice to carry out a comprehensive investigation of surface water, stream sediment, ground and groundwater contamination of the site and the environs as well [sic] carry out remedial works to intercept and treat contaminated surface and groundwater,"

It also lies within the curtilage of Leap Castle which is both a protected structure (Ref No: 95) and a National Monument, OF 039 - 047

The Latest application for planning permission has been accepted by Offaly County Council as a valid application.

The application was lodged on the 14th of January 2004 and the latest date for a submission or objection is the 17th of February 2004. A fee of E20.00 is applicable with any objection lodged
The planning reference number is 04/60
Submissions should be made to
Director Of Planning Services
Planning Department
Offaly County Council
County Buildings
Co Offaly

It must be noted that Standish Sawmill is not the only plant that uses this toxic chemical as a wood preservative.

Irish Birds, Vol. 7 No. 2

This year's recently published and invaluable Irish Birds [BirdWatch Ireland] includes amongst its abstracts five papers that will be of interest to FNN readers. They are almost all part of the Bioforest Project and the editors hope to receive permission to reprint them in due course.

Hen Harrier Survey and Research
Norris D., National Parks and Wildlife.

This reports on progress since the first national survey was undertaken in 1999 and is topical in view of last year's problems with farmers in Kerry. [Shoot the Bastards, FNN] 102 confirmed pairs with 27 possible were found. Breeding success was high, 77% - 82% - so predation during the breeding season does not appear to be a significant factor in Ireland.

While young second rotation conifers are a preferred breeding ground, harriers have not recolonised large areas of restock in County Wicklow and it is unclear if restock will continue to support breeding Harriers in the same way that new pre- thicket plantings have. National Parks and Wildlife commissioned two further studies of habitat selection in 2000 and 2002.

Assessment of bird conservation concern in forested landscape (2003)
Wilson M., Pitton J, Gittimngs T, Giller PS, Kelly TC & O'Halloran, Bioforest, University College Cork

The value of forestry plantations to the hen harrier is highly variable. As part of the Bioforest Project, UCC is working with NPWS [above], BirdWatch, and the Irish Raptor Study Group to analysis the 1998, 2000 breeding survey of hen harriers in conjunction with digitalised landscape data.

Assessment of Avian Biodiversity at different stages of the forest cycle (2001-2002)
Wilson M., Pitton J, Gittimngs T, Giller PS, Kelly TC & O'Halloran, Bioforest, University College Cork

44 plantation forests throughout Ireland have been surveyed for avian diversity. Sites included pure Sitka, pure ash, and non-intimate Sitka/Ash at five stages of the forest cycle. [FNN might question the reasons for the choice of ash as it is host to less species than oak and so is not a fair comparison ] Variables, including environmental factors and management, were assessed and indications of bird species richness were identified

Avian Biodiversity of afforestation sites, and initial impact of afforestation on open habitats (2002-2004)
Wilson M., Pitton J, Gittimngs T, Giller PS, Kelly TC & O'Halloran, Bioforest, University College Cork

Pairs of sites were selected where seven years previously the land had been bog, heath, and grassland. Each pair had one which retained its habitat and another which had been forested with Sitka. Five areas of open habitat were also surveyed immediately before afforestation. The study will report on short-term effects of afforestation.

Investigation of influence of aspects of forest management on avian biodiversity in plantation forests (2003, 2005)

12 different configurations of unplanted open spaces in Sitka forests from 31 to 59 years were studied. The second part of the project will involve experimental manipulation of open space at the establishment stage, testing the hypothesis that the best configuration in newly reforested sites and be predicted from the studies on open spaces in mature forests.

Series Editor
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2.1 Approval given for 17,000 hectares of forestry since start of this year

Approvals to plant over 17,000 hectares of forestry have been issued by the Department of Agriculture and Food since it took over the administration of the forestry sector on January 1st.
The Minister for Agriculture, Mr Walsh, said he did not share the view that plantings this year would fall to such a level as to damage the structure of the industry.
"I am aware that 2003 and, indeed, 2002 were not perhaps the most progressive years for forestry in Ireland. This was due in part to necessary containment of Government expenditure, but also partly due to the understandable uncertainties brought about by parallel developments in other areas which directly impact on forestry."
He said he was already active in dispelling and counteracting some uncertainties surrounding the industry. These included a 30 per cent increase in the estimate for forestry, and intensive talks with the European Commission on the impact of CAP reforms on forestry.
Mr Walsh said in addition to sanctioning planting applications, he had authorised the start of the long overdue inventory of Irish forests. He would urge farmers and landowners to recognise the financial and tax-free benefits that forestry offered, an industry which employed over 10,000 people and had an annual turnover of €500 million.
Seán Mac Connell
© The Irish Times

2.2 Forestry growers being hit by cross compliance

24 Jan 2004: A number of forestry growers are currently being notified of penalties being imposed due to their failure to comply with cross-compliance. EU regulations required such a system from 1 January 2003.
The Forest Service is now using the iMap system to digitise old Ordinance Survey maps and identify if land claiming forestry payments was also being included as area for livestock or arable schemes.
Where overlaps are identified, penalties will apply. No penalties were imposed in 2003. However, the Forest Service is now advising penalised farmers that penalties applied this year will also include a penalty for 2003.
Maps are included with the letters notifying farmers of penalties and growers do have the right to query possible errors.
Pat O'Keeffe
© Farmer's Journal


Coillte's and Forestry's blind gallop?

A Eagarth??ir a chara,

In FNN 129, 28thJan, 2004, Professor William Goldminer revealed that once again Coillte Teoranta has wasted our money in fighting legal battles that it cannot win.

Coillte, with the concurrence/encouragement of the Forestry Division, continually argues that it is not a Public Authority but the courts have repeatedly found otherwise. They have jointly and separately already lost on a number of occasions in the European Court of Justice. Both Forestry and Coillte can afford to go to court in no-win situations as the Taxpayer foots the bill. The cost of these unnecessary outings probably already exceeds One million Euro. As the saying goes, "it's easy to be generous with the neighbour's ass".

So far no minister has called a halt to Coillte's and Forestry's blind gallop? The Sunday Times,1stJan 2004, reported that Joe Walsh, Minister for Agriculture and Food, has designs on the post of EU Commissioner for Agriculture.

Joe Walsh did a good job in keeping out the Foot and Mouth Disease. He needs to do an equally good job with his new Forestry/Coillte portfolio. Failure to grasp the nettle will leave him with the task of picking up the pieces if and when he lands the plum job in Europe.

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Formaldehyde, an industry cover up?

In FNN 113 we ran an article of the emission of formaldehyde from manufactured board products in particular MDF.

Following further research into the manufactured board industry a number of issues of serious concern have come to light.

As far back as 1997 the Graphical Paper and Media Union (GPMU) published a bulletin to inform their members of the potential dangers of working with MDF. Extracts from this Bulletin are given below:

'Recently, there has been considerable publicity about the potential hazards
of the manufacture and use of Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF). Although
attention has been concentrated on the furniture, building and DIY sectors,
it is clear that this highly versatile material may be used in areas where
GPMU members are working.'

Medium Density Fibreboard is manufactured by a dry process at a lower
temperature than for example hardboard, another type of fibreboard. The
effect of this is that the natural glues and resins contained within the
wood are rendered ineffective. MDF therefore uses manufactured bonding
agents and resins. Varying density boards with differing finishes are used
for various end uses.


In all fibreboards, formaldehyde resins are used to bond together the
constituent parts. This is usually urea formaldehyde, but some fibreboard
including exterior or marine quality board will use stronger glues such as
phenol formaldehyde.

Even at a low level, exposure to formaldehyde though inhalation can cause irritation to the eyes, nose, throat and mucous membrane. Formaldehyde can also affect the skin, leading to dermatitis, and the respiratory system causing asthma and rhinitis. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organisation, quoted evidence that even short term exposure to formaldehyde, at far below the legal limit allowable in Britain, could cause irritation to the eyes, nose and throat.

The IARC's findings also stated that wood dust is a carcinogen' (cancer causing) and that 'formaldehyde is probably carcinogenic to humans'. IARC was also concerned about the reproductive hazards of formaldehyde'.

Formaldehyde is classified in the UK and throughout Europe as a Category 3 Carcinogen. This means it is a substances which "causes concern for humans owing to possible carcinogenic effects but, in respect of which, available information is not adequate for making a satisfactory assessment." This puts formaldehyde on the GPMU list of potential carcinogens, meaning it should be replaced where possible, and if not, subject to rigorous controls that reduce exposure to the lowest possible level.


Rumours that MDF is banned in America and/or Australia are unfounded. However the US limits formaldehyde emissions from MDF to 0.3ppm (parts per million), and home owners in California were warned that their new home had been built using MDF: which "contains a chemical known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive hazards". Australia has a tighter exposure standard than Britain and warns its workers that formaldehyde is 'a probable carcinogen' and a sensitiser (i.e. it can cause allergic reaction such as asthma).

In Germany the exposure limit is 0.lppm, and Norway and Hungary both have
lower exposure limits than Britain and list formaldehyde as an allergen and
probable carcinogen.

In the UK, the Health and Safety Commission's Advisory Committee on Toxic
Substances is now being asked to review the hazards of working with MDF.

Formaldehyde is recognised by the Health and Safety Executive as a hazardous substance and as such has been given a Maximum Exposure Limit (MEL). The MEL for formaldehyde is 2ppm and at no time should this limit be exceeded.

If formaldehyde in MDF is being used, and cut or worked, at your workplace your employer should first try to use a safer material. If there is no alternative to using fibreboard then your employer should consider low emission board. Some board manufacturers are advertising low formaldehyde or zero formaldehyde emission boards made to the stringent German 'E1' standard. This standard is currently being reviewed by the European Union.

Safety Reps have the right to consultation and access to information on any
risk assessment carried out under COSHH. Safety Representatives should:

Ensure that the employer has carried out a suitable and sufficient
assessment of the risks created by any activities where MDF board is cut or
Ensure that the employer provides adequate information on the
materials that make up MDF board.
If formaldehyde is used in present materials, request that the
employer substitutes this with a safer material. Low formaldehyde or zero
formaldehyde emission fibreboards are available.
Ensure that adequate controls are applied to reduce dust to the
lowest possible levels.
Ensure that the employer identifies any hazards of working with MDF
and informs workers of the dangers and precautions to be taken when working
with MDF.'

International Agency for Research on Cancer, World Health Organisation.
IARC evaluates Wood Dust and Formaldehyde' IARC Monograph No 62.

Graphical Paper and Media Union, Keys House, 63-67 Bromham Road, Bedford,
MK40 2AG.'

It is evident that formaldehyde is an issue of enough concern for Unions to inform their members of the potential hazards.

This information is largely repeated in many publications such as the London Hazards Centre Factsheet which informs us that :

' Wood based boards are used almost everywhere. Workers complain of the dust produced by the boards but few workers know what the boards are made of or the hazards. In the UK, board manufacturers are advertising low formaldehyde or zero formaldehyde emission boards made to the stringent German "E1" standard. This appears to be because manufacturers feel the EC is very likely to adopt this standard in the future.
Some boards are finished with laminated plastic sheet (melamine), foil (PVC) or wood veneer. Boards may be treated with flame retardant chemicals.

Polyurea resin, urea formaldehyde resin
Formaldehyde Resins are used to bond the constituent parts together (in some particleboards and all fibreboards). Irritant at low levels to eyes, mucous membranes, nose and throat. Can sensitise skin (dermatitis) and respiratory system (asthma and rhinitis). Increases risk of cancer. Some evidence of reproductive hazards and ability to damage a foetus. Formaldehyde resin continues to emit vapour after it has hardened '

And formaldehyde is not the only hazard associated with MDF the following coatings can also have serious health implications:

Melamine -An eye, skin and mucous membrane irritant, causes dermatitis, and is an experimental carcinogen.
Paraffin and mineral wax - Petroleum derivatives which can cause dermatitis. If not solvent refined may contain small amounts of hazardous impurities such as benzene.

VCM - When machined, PVC veneers can give off fumes of vinyl chloride monomer (VCM), a very potent cancer agent.

'The combined effects of wood dust, formaldehyde or other substances, and any other hazards are not known. Effects of combined exposure will probably be greater than the sum of the parts, especially if dust has disabled the body's defence mechanisms.'

The fact sheet recommends a number of mitigating measures that can be taken the main one being to use traditional floor and wall materials rather than a board product. Where manufactured boards are the best practicable option then low or zero emission boards should be used to reduce the formaldehyde hazard.

When manufactured board products are cut and worked on construction sites or in a temporary work place such as in the home the advice is to cut in the open air to reduce dust problems but this will not solve them. Dust extractors and respiratory protection is necessary to reduce inhalation of the formaldehyde impregnated dust particularly where the board is also coated with PVC etc. as they are all potentially carcinogenic.'

So for Joe Soap who goes to his local Irish timber merchant to by some MDF for wall panelling what advice is given
FNN telephoned a number of timber suppliers and specifically asked if there were any hazards associated with MDF. We were assured by each and every one that the dust was not particularly harmful and there was no hazard associated with the glues used to manufacture the boards.
The only information FNN could glean on the emission levels permitted here in Ireland was from the Health and Safety Authority who informed us that the maximum levels permitted are 2 parts per million or 2.5 milligrams per cubic metre in the work place and assured us that the same maximum levels would apply in the home, this is seven times higher than in the USA (0.3 ppm)and 20 times higher than permitted emission levels in Germany (0.1 ppm).

Perhaps it is time for the manufactures of these products to come clean about the potential health effects that the consumer faces as they have had to do in the other countries such as the United States of America(USA.).

In the USA there have been numerous court cases taken and won in relation to health problems caused by chemicals emitted from building materials and furnishings etc including formaldehyde.

One of the more significant cases was in August 1993 in which a multi-party litigation involving exposure to formaldehyde in mobile homes was taken and won . The Lawyer, Mr. Bennett, was able to achieve proper compensation for numerous mobile home owners. During the handling of these numerous formaldehyde cases, Mr. Bennett was able to discover an industry-wide conspiracy and documented a cover-up of the dangers of formaldehyde. Mr. Bennett's actions, and those of other consumer trial attorneys, led to a warning being placed on mobile home sales documents and changes in the manufacturing and use of formaldehyde in the wood industry. See Toxic Deception, Dan Fagin, Marianne Lavalle, and the Centre for Public Integrity. (Carol Publishing Group, 1996) pp. 153-155.

And cases have also been taken and won for exposure to Formaldehyde in the work place. For example a worker who became sensitive to chemicals and subject to respiratory irritation after exposure to formaldehyde on the job. The Workers' Compensation Board order that the employer help support a chemical free diet, vitamin supplements, and air purifier was upheld by appeals court. During the course of her employment by the Department of Social Services, Morrell developed chronic respiratory symptoms and chemical sensitivity due to accidental exposure to formaldehyde. She filed a claim with the Workers' Compensation Board for benefits. The Board ordered that her employer pay for organic food, vitamin supplements, and an air purifier to help alleviate her problems. The Employer appealed, however the decision was upheld .

So with such widespread knowledge being available for so many years and numerous court actions being successful why are we in Ireland not being warned about the serious health hazards associated with these products?. And why are permitted emission levels in Ireland so high , could it be an industry cover up??

8 February
On Sunday the 8th Feb, we are celebrating (a few days late) World Wetlands Day at Sonairte, the ecology centre on the road to Laytown, Co Meath, at 3pm. There will be a free workshop, down at Sonairte which is on the road to Laytown. The workshop will explore the importance of wetlands in Ireland, focusing on the local rivers the Nanny and the Boyne.

Short and informative presentations will be given by representatives of Coastwatch, Earthwatch and Birdwatch amongst others, followed by a tour of the wetlands area and bird spotting with a local expert. Sonairte's cafe will be open for afternoon tea after the talks.

Aspects of the workshop include the value of Irish wetlands, birdlife, the development of wetland wastewater treatment systems and a community project for the Boyne Estuary. If anyone is interested, they can contact me on

Claire Shellshear
Contact: Phone 041 982 9831
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14 February
Irish Doctors Environmental Association(IDEA): Public Meeting
At:Our Ladies Hosp, Crumlin
On:Sat 14 Feb
Time: 14.30hrs
Speakers: Robin Stott FRCP, Beverly Thorpe PhD
Is population health improving in the 'western' world? Does increase in life expectancy mean anything? Why is it that we are spending more and more on 'health' services, while many accepted indicators denote deterioration rather than improvement? What has happened to the holistic concept?
Dr. Robin Stott FRCP, consultant physician and lately Medical Director of Lewisham Hospital, London, having studied health and health care around the world, believes he has the answers to these and many other questions pertaining to our ailing 'health' services. The title of his address is "Sustainability and Health" and we in IDEA are convinced that the widest possible publicity should be given to his carefully considered views, so as to inform the serious and widespread public debate on the structure and delivery of our health services that is so urgently required.
Each of us, including newborns, have up to an estimated 400 novel chemicals in our bodies. Many are known to be exerting a toxic effect individually. What of the combined effects now and on our children in the future? What are politicians, governments and the EU doing to protect us now and to prevent further contamination in the future. Beverly Thorpe has campaigned internationally for many years to try to improve this situation, and is here now to try to move the Irish government during it's EU Presidency to get some urgently required action on this issue.
Philip Michael MICGP
PRO IDEA Millbrook Medical Centre, Bandon, Co Cork Tel 023 41132

21-22 February
Dealing With The Backlash.
Friends of the Irish Environment Allihies Weekend 2004.

"The reality is that, even while our leaders have learned to parrot some acceptable environment-speak for European consumption, we are living right now through a sustained and remarkably successful backlash against the environmental movement. The shift in attitudes over the past 20 years is being rolled back. The lessons learned from decades of bad or non-existent planning are being torn up. And the backlash is coming from the top, led by the present Government."
Fintan O'Toole The Irish Times, January 13, 2004

Workshops and Master Classes..
Master Class: Enforcing European Law, Aine Ryall, Law Department,
University College Cork.
Workshop: "Direct Action". Will St. Leger, Greenpeace / Stop Esso Campaign Ireland
And Much More
Cost Euro 85, concessions Euro 50

Enquiries to:

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12 March.
A vision for the future of the forest industry in Ireland.
IFIC (in association with ITGA, SIF and COFORD) will host a conference on a vision for the future of the forest industry in Ireland. The event will be held in Johnstown House, Enfield, Co Meath, and will feature a number of high profile European and Irish speakers. The agenda includes four formal presentations and a panel discussion featuring a number of the key industry leaders within Ireland. Given the pending review of the Government's National Forest Strategy, Growing for the Future, this promises to be a lively and most timely event.
Full details, including booking form, can be downloaded from For further information, contact the Society of Irish Foresters (email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

April 22nd to May 2nd 2004
Convergence Festival 2004
Innovative Culture for a Better World
April 22nd to May 2nd 2004 at Cultivate: Sustainable Living Centre.
Ss Michael & John's, Essex Street West, Temple Bar, Dublin

Please distribute these dates as widely as possible and have a look at our site.

28 April, 1 May
Forestry/Wood Products event to be held at the Alexander Hotel, Dublin
InnovaWood and COFORD have joined forces to arrange the conference and field trip to highlight issues facing the future of the European Forest-Wood Chain. The agenda includes sessions on:
European policy in relation to forest-based industries
Integrated forestry-wood chain
Biomass, feedstock for energy generation or panelboard production
Innovation in wood products
Education and training in the forest-based industries sector - influencing the future
To request further information on the event, contact InnovaWood or COFORD.

12-16 July
ProForest and Ecosecurities are pleased to release further information on the 2004 Training Programme which will be held in Oxford on 12-16 July 2004.

The programme provides a range of up-to-date courses dealing with current issues for those involved in forest management, certification and sustainable natural resource management.

Training courses will be available in the following subject areas:
Introduction to Certification and Standards (1 day)
Forest Certification in Practice and Practical Auditing (5 days)
Responsible Purchasing in Practice, Illegal Logging, Product Tracing and Chain of Custody (2 days)
High Conservation Value Forests and Biodiversity Monitoring (1 day)
Climate Change Policy and Forests (1 day)
Forest Policy Update (1 day)
Small Forests and Group Schemes (1 day)
For further information, please contact
58 St Aldates
United Kingdom
Tel : +44 (0)1865 243439
Fax : +44 (0)1865 790441


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Forestry and Legislation.County councils propose E500/ha forestry charge.Forestry hopes continue to grow.Forests plundered.Medieval and colonial demesnes uncovered.Forestry Act of 1946, Investors and Coillte. EVENTS.Forestry suffering from “Institutional Amnesia”?

5 NOVEMBER, 2003

Forestry and Legislation.

County councils propose E500/ha forestry charge.
Forestry hopes continue to grow.
Forests plundered.
Medieval and colonial demesnes uncovered.

Forestry Act of 1946, Investors and Coillte.


Forestry suffering from “Institutional Amnesia”?


1. Forestry and legislation.
The list of legislation and regulations that are relevant to Irish Forestry is relatively extensive. It includes various Irish and EU legislation along with a number of international protocols. Forest Service website states that those involved in forest operations must be familiar with the requirements of the various legal and regulatory frameworks and lists all the relevant legislation.
All of the following legislation is briefly summarised in the Code of Best Forest Practice.
The list of ‘Legal and Regulatory Framework relevant to Irish Forestry
Irish Legislation’ given on the Forest Segrvice website is listed below:
Forestry Act 1946
Forestry Act 1956
Forestry Act 1988
Local Government (Planning and Development) Acts 1963-1996
Local Government (Water Pollution) Acts 1977-1990
Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992
National Monuments Acts and Amendments 1930-1994
Wildlife Act 1976
Roads Act 1993
Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989 and the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 1993
Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 1995
Occupiers Liability Act 1995
Waste Management Act 1996
Litter Pollution Act 1997
Local Government (Planning Development) Regulations - Environmental Impact Assessment - Statutory Instrument No. 100 of 1996
European Communities (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Amendment) Regulations - Statutory Instrument No. 101 of 1996
Employment legislation
Transport legislation
Planning and Development Bill 1999
Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 1999

Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora
Council Directive 79/409/EEC on the conservation of wild birds
European Communities (Natural Habitats) Regulations 1997
Council Directive 66/404/EEC on the marketing of forest reproductive material and Council Directive 71/161/EEC on external quality standards for forest reproductive material marketed within the Community
Council Directive 1999/105/EC on the marketing of forest reproductive material
Council Directive 77/93/EEC on protective measures against the introduction into the Community of organisms harmful to plants or plant products and against their spread within the Community
EU Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive 85/337/EEC
EU Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive 97/11/EEC
EU scheme on the protection of forests against atmospheric pollution (Council Regulation EEC 3528/86)

International Protocols
OECD Scheme for the Control of Forest Reproductive Material moving in International Trade
Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972)
United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (1992)
Climate Change - UN Framework (1992)
Helsinki Protocols arising from the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe, Helsinki, 1993
Lisbon Protocols arising from the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe, Lisbon, 1998
Kyoto Protocol, 1997

A long list to be familiar with!

The 1946 Forestry Act alone is 74 pages long and the 1988 act adds another 28 pages. This act is curently under review and it is to be hoped that stakeholders including environmental NGO’ s will have the oppurtunity to have an input.

2.1 County councils propose E500/ha forestry charge
By Pat O'Keeffe
A proposed charge of E500 per hectare of new forestry plantations and E5 per metre squared of new farm buildings are among a number of controversial charges included in both Kilkenny and Laois County council's draft development contribution scheme.
Other county councils are also in the process of releasing consultation documents.
In relation to forestry, the Kilkenny proposal excludes the first five hectares planted; the Laois proposal does not. The Laois proposal also includes a charge of E2,000 per wind turbine constructed. For farm buildings, Kilkenny have proposed a E5/metre squared charge but have excluded all areas less than 500 metres squared.
This week's IFA National Council meeting passed a resolution that farm development work should be excluded from County Council development charges. Meetings on the issue are expected to commence shortly with submissions due to close in early December.
Section 48 of the Planning and Development Act enables Local Authorities, when granting planning permission, to seek a contribution towards the provision of infrastructure. Both urban and rural dwelling will also be subject to charges, which are aimed at covering the cost of providing infrastructure. Total costs in the Laois draft are E6,500 per dwelling and E50 per metre squared of industrial/commercial development.
Kilkenny County Council state in their proposal that they expect to generate E26m from the charges between now and 2007. They expect agricultural and forestry development to be at the rate of 26,000 square metres per year.
Other county councils are in the process of circulating their draft proposals. Cork County Council appears to exclude agriculture and forestry from any development charge.
The IFA forestry committee have written to Laois County Council seeking a meeting on the issue.
© Farmers Journal.

2.2 Forestry hopes continue to grow
By Pat O'Keeffe
The Forest Service is expected to start issuing planting approvals in the next few weeks.
Industry sources suggest that up to 800 cases covering around 8,000 hectares are ready for approval, subject to funding becoming available.
The industry is hopeful that once approvals start to be issued, confidence will return to the industry. Responsibility for forestry is moving to the Department of Agriculture and sources there appear confident of securing funding for an improved planting programme in 2004.
However, arguments about funding remain, with a report from the ERSI this week likely to question the cost of the programme.
Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources Dermot Ahern, who currently holds the Forestry brief, recently warned the Dail that we should be aware of the high historic and future cost of forestry, if existing policies are to be maintained.
"For example, E613 million, or an average of about E88 million per annum, has been spent on forestry since 1997 and, if existing policies were to continue, annual average costs, assuming respectively 10,000 and 20,000 hectares per annum, would be E100 million per annum and E130 million per annum over the next three years. Indeed, by 2020 the annual costs of meeting the sustaining progress targets of 20,000 hectares per annum could be over E210 million per annum.'' He was replying to a question from Celia Keaveny
© Farmers Journal

2.3 Forests plundered
New Scientist vol 180 issue 2418 - 25 October 2003, page 5
THE damage caused by China's voracious appetite for timber is spreading. A report says China is the key culprit in the large-scale felling of forests in neighbouring Burma (also Myanmar).
Burma is one of the world's biodiversity hotspots. It is home to vast swathes of virgin forest, rich with giant hemlock, junipers and Chinese coffin trees, some of them several hundred years old.
According to the report published this month by London-based campaign group Global Witness, China is expected to import 1.4 million cubic metres of Burma's timber by the end of the year. Last year it imported 1 million cubic metres, and the UN Food and Agricultural Organization says Burma's forest cover fell by 1.4 per cent in the same year.
"China should immediately stop logging in Burma," the Global Witness report says. The problem has worsened since 1999, when China banned internal logging after devastating flash floods were blamed on deforestation.
Peter Wharton, a botanist from the University of British Columbia in Canada who visited the region recently, calls it an environmental disaster in the making. "It makes no sense," he says. "On the Chinese side you have a region of protected forest, so the Chinese are just going across the border and logging in Burma. The clear loser is the environment."
© New Scientist.

2.4. Medieval and colonial demesnes uncovered
Palimpsest is a word I like to dust off now and then. It dates from the days when parchment might be used several times, the older, rubbed-out writing a ghostly presence behind the new.
It carries a sense of time's texture, of successive human purposes. As leaves drift and bracken crumples, as the older bones of the landscape begin to show, "palimpsest" seems quite appropriate for a project under way in the British Library In London.

There, the 19th Century maps of the Ordnance Survey of Ireland, originally made for taxation purposes, offer the only complete record of the boundaries of a lost Ireland. They are the maps which, framed under glass on the walls of old Irish country houses and angling hotels, evoke stark journeys through sepia-hatched valleys between the little green blobs of Big House demesnes. Now, overlaid by modern maps, in a computer enterprise centred on the British Library, they are helping to construct a view of Ireland in which the old parks and gardens are etched behind the fields, roads and fences of our largely remade countryside.

The initiative comes from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, a unit of the former Duchas now within the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Worried about today's new pressures from development, it has commissioned a UK landscape consultancy (Richards, Moorehead & Laing of Ruthin, North Wales) to find Ireland's lost parks and gardens and weave them into a database - partly for the record, but also to open new options for conservation.

Anyone who has wandered farming backlands and forestry plantations in search of the past knows what extraordinary conjunctions one can still come across: vast porticoed ruins marooned in mazes of barbed wire; family mauseoleums framed in Gothic conifers; stately terraces embalmed in moss. It makes it easier to imagine that there might, indeed, be treasures worth conserving, and even restoring, among remains of the old man-made landscapes .

So far, the project's "paper" search has found more than 3,100 "historically important man-made landscapes" in 13 counties - some 800 in Co Cork alone. When it completes its survey early next year, the total is expected have reached 6,000. It will draw together the existing work of many local historians and groups, with a steering group of Irish garden and landscape experts.

Medieval and colonial demesnes once covered more than 5 per cent of Ireland, and by the 1830s and the first ordnance survey their walled parks stood out as leafy oases in an often bleak and treeless landscape. By this date, too, the formal avenues and gardens were giving way to a different relationship with nature - a romantic landscaping of rolling meadows dotted with clumps of oak and beech, with a lake to mirror the house and tree-lined glades furnished with temples and grottoes. It is hard to think that many such parklands have survived outside private ownership, or conversion to country club and golf course (though some farmers may, I suppose, be stacking silage in "Greek" pavilions).

Some of the estates overplanted with spruce forestry in the early decades of the State are now being cleansed to great effect. At Inistioge in Co Kilkenny, where Woodstock House was burned in 1922, the fine gardens,with their lofty avenues of monkey puzzle and noble fir, are under county council restoration.

At Brackloon Woods, near Westport in Co Mayo, clearance of the conifers has reclaimed a stand of trees of even greater merit - sessile oaks in direct descent from Ireland's ancient native woodland.

Scattered across Ireland are other, similar fragments, many in private hands, that have preserved a precious link with ancient ecosystems. The Native Woodland Scheme launched by the Forest Service in 2001 set out to conserve, restore and extend such woods with the aid of State grants - the best news for nature in years. But, as with other innovative projects endowed in more affluent times, the sap has been drying up just as real growth was getting under way.

Courses run by the Forest Service and the Woodlands of Ireland group have trained over 300 foresters, ecologists and landowners, and the scheme has brought agencies and NGOs together in a quite unprecedented way. But growing seedling oaks needs more certainty than the present cutbacks provide, and after Bertie's recent blithe put-down of "snails and swans", some nature-friendly reassurance would be welcome.

Meanwhile, it is good to see native trees and shrubs given their full whack alongside the conifers in a new book from COFORD, the National Council for Forest Research and Development. Definitive and handsome, A Guide to Forest Tree Species Selection and Silviculture in Ireland (30 Euro, plus p & p) is aimed particularly at the thousands of new forest-owners who have turned to trees in recent decades. The five authors all currently work for Coillte and their deep knowledge of Irish conditions should help to get the right trees planted in the right place, and in mixtures that make sense both to foresters and ecologists.
Michael Viney
© The Irish Times

2.5 Woodland management
Ecologists and foresters keen to participate in the Native Woodlands Scheme have another opportunity to learn more about this impressive native woodland conservation and management scheme at a free training course in Tullamore, Co Offaly, from November 10th-12th. To register, contact Kevin Collins. Tel: 01-6782154.
Sylvia Thompson
© The Irish Times

The Forestry Act of 1946, Investors and Coillte.
The Forestry Act of 1946 is a long and detailed documents dealing with such matters as the promotion of interests on forestry and development of afforestation and production and supply of timber, extinguishments of easements (an easement is a right enjoyed by the owner of land to a benefit form other land), creation of rights of way and compulsory acquisition of land More relevant perhaps is the section relating to restrictions on cutting down and inuring trees which covers general and limited felling licences and the power of the minister to attach conditions to these felling licenses.
Any tree in a rural area over 10 years old can only be legally felled if a felling licence has been obtained. The definition of tree is given as ’the word “tree” does not include any hazel, apple, plum. Damson, pear or cherry grown for the value of its fruit [this then excludes such trees not specifically grown for fruit from being exempt from requiring a felling licence] or any ozier, but with those exceptions includes every tree of any age or any stage of growth’. It is this act that gives the obligation to maintain trees until ten years old, and after this age a license to fell is required.
A general felling licence (section 49 of the act) covers uprooting and cutting down of trees for thinning and clearing land for replanting with a view to replanting. It clearly specifies that every general felling licence which authorises the uprooting or cutting down of trees for the purpose of clearing land with a view to replanting (subsection 3 of section 49) ‘shall’ have attached - ’conditions that the licensee shall ‘ replant within a specified period and ‘shall’ preserve trees planted for eleven years from the end of the period during which the authority conferred by the licence is exercisable, or ten years from the planting of such trees whichever is the later.
In subsection 6 it states that ‘where afforestation conditions are attached to a general felling license’ (and it appears that these conditions ‘shall’ always be so attached) then ‘(a) the said conditions shall be binding on the licensee and on each of his successors in title to the land to which the license relates and ‘(b) if the licensee is not the occupier of such land, the said conditions, is in so far as they relate to the preservation of trees and the maintenance of fences and other protection, shall be binding on the person who is for the time being the occupier of such land.’

So to summarise under a general felling license there is an obligation to replant and to maintain trees replanted. This burden to the land applies to any future owner or occupier of the land. So the clear understanding is that any forest plantation can only be thinned and felled under a general felling licences and as such under this act such land will remain land in perpetuity.
Yet investors are being told invest in forestry and after clear fell the land can be resold as development land. This is evident in this extract from an article in the. Irish Sunday Times Sept 21 2003 by Kathy Foley

’After the trees are harvested, some sites can be sold for residential
development or used for wind farms, and there is a chance that carbon
credits, or green tax credits---- earned because of the amount of carbon
taken out of the atmosphere and stored in trees--could be sold
internationally and the profits returned to the shareholders.’

The only way forested land can be cleared and not replanted is by the use of a limited felling license. The requirements of the limited felling license are also laid out in the 1946 Forestry Act. Section 41 states that whenever the Minister grants a limited felling licence – he may, if he thinks fit, attach the condition to replant and preserve the trees. So any land taken out of forestry is at the discretion of the Minister as he may or may not require replanting. The use of the limited felling licence is the only way investors can avail of the afforestation grants and premiums and then sell the land for development. We suggest that if this in fact the case, it is a misuse of EU funding. This funding was predominantly to enable farmers to establish woodlands on their farms, increase Irelands forest resource and to reduce agricultural outputs not to finance a forty year cash crop and a tax scam for investors. If the Minister accepts the limited felling license in these circumstances without the obligation to replant then he is supporting this abuse.
Whilst it states in the Act that ‘replanting if required can occur on a specified part of the land on which stands the tree to which the licence relates or of other land owned by the licensee at he date of grant of the application’ which gives the option to replant on other land the implication by the use of the word tree as opposed to trees implies that this license was not intended for use in relation to large areas of woodland. It is, in fact, the license needed for the felling of any broadleaf tree and was intended to protect Irelands diminished broadleaf resource including roadside and hedgerow trees.
Which leads us on to Coillte’s farm partnership agreement. Coillte representatives have responded to enquiries with regard to selling of forested land for, or using land for development that as long as they replant a comparable area they do not need to replant the actual site felled. We are told that they are not buying any more land for afforestation and they plant on farm partnership sites to meet these replanting requirements. Under the terms for a limited felling license (section 41) it states planting takes place on the land ‘ or of other land owned by the licensee at the date of the grant of the license’. Coillte do not own the land under the farm partnership agreement and therefore it appears that farm partnership land cannot be used in this way.

We would be delighted if any members of the Forest Service or Coillte could explain how these apparent discrepancies can occur.

C. Murphy.


10 – 12 November
Native Woodland Training Course, Tullamore, Co Offaly.
To register, contact Kevin Collins. Tel: 01-6782154.

11 November
Agitate, Educate, Organise
You can improve the perception, profile and outreach of your organisation by using the media more effectively. This interactive workshop led by Donal Scannell shows you how. You'll learn how to write news releases that get noticed and control interviews to get your core message accross. "This isn't just about politics and campaigning, it's also about promoting your charity, sustainable business and interests in the media". Donal has worked with The Irish Times, RTE, and Today FM.
19.30 - 21.30 E6.00
Cultivate, Sustainable Living Centre, 15-19 West Essex street, Dublin 8, Tel: 01-674-6415

13 November
Introduction To Open Source Software Solutions
Open source software is a powerful alternative to proprietary software packages such as Microsoft - and it's almost free!! The programs are created by communities of volunteers cooperating across the globe to provide powerful, stable and continually upgraded software solutions. All NGO's and community groups should be using open source(i.e linux). This introduction will explain, using irish case studies, how your organisation can save thousands of Euro's on software outlays without any sacrifices in performance, reliability or stability.
19.30 - 21.30 E6.00
Cultivate, Sustainable Living Centre, 15-19 West Essex street, Dublin 8, Tel: 01-674-6415

21 November 2003 Friday,, 9.45 –4.45 Zero Waste Alliance Ireland, VOICE and An Taisce present:
Low Cost Solutions to Ireland's Waste Crisis
Tailor's Hall, Back Lane Dublin 8
As Ireland looks to the future, solutions to our escalating waste crisis
must be found which are cost effective and safe.
This conference will examine international experience of such solutions and
seeks to place these in the Irish context.
In today's more constrained economic context, valuable lessons can be
learned from international experience to inform decisions about how to
manage our waste in a manner that is sustainable while delivering value for
money. The conference will hear from international experts on both the
practical aspects and broader economic implications of low cost solutions.
Speakers are
Robin Murray is a visiting research associate at the Centre for Study of
Global Governance at the London School of Economics, and is a leading
proponent on the Economics of Zero Waste.

Matthew Pumfrey spent five years working in the resource recovery industry
in New Zealand. Initially a Technical Manager of a 50,000 tpa windrow
composting facility, he was then involved in developing the Zero Waste New
Zealand Trust. He is also a Director of Zero Waste Associates, a company
set up to develop and promote Zero Waste in the UK and Ireland.

George Ross graduated from the Dublin Institute of Technology with a First
Class honours degree in Property Economics. He has written papers on the
cost of waste management in the Dublin region and on the cost of recycling
in Co. Kildare

Luc Klunder has a wealth of international experience in the field of
composting techniques for organic waste streams and environmentally friendly
waste disposal treatment technologies, such as tunnel composting and
biological drying.

Who Should Attend?
. Local Authorities,
. Government Departments,
. Policy Makers,
. Politicians,
. Councillors,
. Environmental Officers,
. Consultants,
. Business Leaders,
. Environmental Organisations,
. Researchers.
Registration Details

Fee: 75 Euro per delegate (concessions available for not-for-profit
environmental organisations)

For details and to make a Booking contact:
7 Upper Camden Street,
Dublin 2
Tel: 01 475 0467
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

21-22 February
Friends of the Irish Environment.
Allihies Weekend 2004. ‘Dealing With The Backlash’. Workshops and Master Classes. The new Infrastructure Bill; Ways around the new FOI restrictions. Master Class: Enforcing European Law, Aoina Ryall, Law Department, Unicersity College Cork. Enquiries to: admin@friendsoftheirishenvironment,net
See the new database website at:

Further details about some of these events and updates to the programme can be found on IPCC's website at

Aug-Nov '03 WILD BOGLANDS EXPO Bog heritage and conservation exhibition on display in Kildare County Libraries as follows: Aug-Newbridge Library; Sept-Athy Library; Oct-Celbridge Library. Schools visits contact: Mark Reid Tel 045-448317.

Sale at the Memorial Hall, Terenure, Dublin. Tel Oscar on 01-8722397 for


5.1 Forestry suffering from “Institutional Amnesia”?

A Eagarth??ir, a chara,

On the 23 October, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) examined the Secretary General, Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources on the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General 2002 (C&AG). The C&AG had found massive waste and irregularities in the procurement of a Forestry Computer System.

There were over-runs both in expenditure and timing. The expenditure of Nine million Euro yielded little and a further Four million Euro will have to be spent to get a properly working system. The figures are exclusive of departmental salaries, travelling expenses other overheads.

The PAC was extremely critical of the extremely bad management of the project. Rather than deal with the full examination at present, I will in this issue, FNN 120, only address the Secretary General’s mantra about “the loss of institutional memory” due to the transfer of the Forestry Division from Dublin to Wexford in 1998. He repeatedly put this forward by way of part explanation for the waste of the Taxpayer’s money.

Of course the induction of new staff and transfer to a new location presents problems. However, the Secretary General failed to tell the PAC that the same Assistant Secretary continued to have responsibility for Forestry. The Principal Officer who had responsibility for Forestry prior to the move to Wexford was still employed by the Department in Dublin as also were other former Forestry personnel. The experienced Forestry Assistant Principals Officers - the key managers - moved with the section from Dublin to Wexford. Also several of the other Forestry staff members, and in particular those with computer skills, transferred to Wexford. The “institutional memory” may have been diluted but it was not lost.

Being new, the Secretary General does not himself have Forestry “institutional memory” but that is no excuse for not being properly briefed before appearing before the PAC. Did he ask the right questions or does his department suffer from “institutional amnesia”?

A Minister would be censured if he/she were to mislead Dáil Éireann. The Secretary General should move immediately to set the record straight.

Le gach dea ghui,

Éamonn Ó Flannagáin

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FNN is an independent voluntary service. It is distributed only by e-mail and is free. It receives no funding from any source. The contents of the newsletter do not necessarily represent the views of the editors.

Newsletter editors:

Caroline Murphy
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Tony Lowes
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Ian Wright
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Fully searchable Newsletter archive and subscriptions

The Millennium Tree Certificates issued to every household in Ireland are a scam forced on the Millennium People’s Forest project by the Millennium Committee for political spin.

Material released to Friends of the Irish Environment under the Freedom of Information Act from the Taoiseach’s Department shows that the project as proposed by Coillte had no element of individual certificates for every household. The project was planned for the nation as a whole.

The Millennium Committee and Minister Breenan, however, insisted on the issuing of certificates as a condition of an additional £1 million in funding which Ray McSharry requested in September of 1999.


As late as March, 2000, Coillte continued to ask IS THERE ANOTHER WAY, suggesting that more than 60% of the certificates would be thrown out, that there would be difficulties in individuals finding their trees. Yet the minutes of a meeting on 23 March show that Minister Breenan informed Coillte that the certificates were an “absolute”.

The scientific fact is that of the 1.2 million trees planted, only 5% will survive to maturity because of the thinning necessary in growing broadleaves. Broadleaves are planted at 3,500 to 6,000 stems per hectare to avoid the necessity of pruning and to force upright growth. In a series of thinnings over the years, the trees are progressively selected until there are between 250 and 350 final mature trees per hectare.

In order for the 1.2 million certificates to represent mature trees, more than 25 million would have to be planted. Instead of the proposed core woodland planting of 337 hectares, 6,000 hectares would be required.

As early as July 1999 Coillte warned “the danger of the project being ridiculed by scientists/environmentalists and greens alike “if the project did not stand up to scientific scrutiny. The project, which was intended to educate people about forestry, is instead being grossly misrepresented for quick political gain.





NEXT MONTH: Forestry and the hen harrier, how the deal was struck.

 1. INTRODUCTION Forest Stewardship Council's [FSC] Forestry Certification: frustrating sustainable forestry?

2. LETTERS Forestry certification is just a bad joke Stick to the facts Tony.

3. NEWS Coillte sells stake in Austrian venture [RTE Online] Biofuel bonanza expected from Norwegian wood [ENDS Environment Daily] 'Protected' Congo forest is logged regardless [New Scientist] Tree trade could save planet from global warming [New Scientist] Soybean boom spells bad news for climate[New Scientist]

4. ARTICLE OF THE WEEK Forest Stewardship Council's [FSC] Forestry Certification: frustrating sustainable forestry - Woodmark Forest Certification Public Report on Coillte Teo


1. INTRODUCTION Forest Stewardship Council's [FSC] Forestry Certification: frustrating sustainable forestry?

This month we continue our two part analysis of why the Forest Stewardship Council's 'green label' has failed to bring Ireland closer to sustainable forestry. In FNN 175 we examined in great detail how during 8 years Irish NGOs had been frustrated in their attempts to bring better standards into Irish forestry through a national standard. We have had no response from the Irish Forestry Certification Initiative to our article, except from one email requesting a version of the issue that was more easily copied than the current PDF format. (This is in fact to change shortly, and we were pleased to supply them with a Word version of the issue.) As we said in FNN 175: 'There is no doubt that certification of Coillte Teo's forestry by the Forest Stewardship Council is the greatest obstacle to changing Ireland's forestry practices to prevent the ongoing environmental damage. At every turn the Government and the State Forestry Board, Coillte Teo, trumpet the 'certificate of good forest management', now renewed until 2011, for 'forests that are managed in accordance with strict social, environmental and economic criteria'. This week we publish a review of the recent audit of Coillte Teo's forestry by the UK's greatly respected Soil Association's Woodmark that shows how they too have failed to address the issues that prevent sustainable forestry in Ireland. How is this done? By either ignoring the long history of 'Corrective Actions Required' [CARs], or by suggesting that the key issues about Coillte's forestry policy are 'outside the scope of Woodmark's remit'. FSC requires that environmental and social considerations be given equal weight to the economic in forestry. The failure of Coillte Teo to do this is identified as the 'root cause' of stakeholder dissatisfaction but 'beyond the scope of an FSC evaluation.' For example 'carbon cycle issues lie outside the scope of FSC certification', Coillte has no 'clearly defined liability to fence', and species composition is 'needs to be resolved within the national standards development process and is not one that it is appropriate for Woodmark to become involved in'. Both of these claims are refuted by our article through reference to FSC Standards and Criterion and the Irish Code of Best Practice. Woodmark actually claims that Coillte 'respects the outcomes of the due legal process' when Coillte is consistently denying in Ireland that it is a public authority. The sole shareholders are Government Ministers and it must lay a Report before the Oireachtas each year. Twice the European Courts have declared that Coillte is a public authority. But Coillte denies it is a public authority, and Woodmark supports them. Ireland is not alone in finding that FSC is failing to bring about sustainable forestry and we quote in our review from comments on the Irish process published on a new website '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.' [] As FSC admits itself 'no measuring and monitoring of impacts of its work were inbuilt in the original set up'. While it is currently setting up impacts assessment mechanisms, it is clear from our review of the Irish Forestry Certification Initiative [IFCI] and of the current Soil Association's Audit Report that Coillte's FSC certification is indeed 'the greatest obstacle to changing Ireland's forestry practices to prevent the ongoing environmental damage.' As America's 'Logging and Sawmilling Journal' says, 'The incentive for companies to be certified is to prevent any possible downturns in business as a result of environmental action or protests.'


2.1 Forestry certification is just a bad joke Sir, Coillte's advertising has the audacity to state "Coillte forests are now a unique five-star experience... and that's official". What a sad, bad joke ! As all who travel around rural Ireland will be aware, the photograph depicting a clearfell Coillte site is typical. The only sign of life at this location in Slieve Aughty was a few mosquitoes over a small, stagnant puddle. The already depleted soil is disrupted causing leaching of phosphates into water courses. More phosphates will be applied when the site is replanted with monoculture conifers (most likely sitka spruce). The only Adjacent trees not yet felled are being brought down by strong winds which sweep into the clearfell site. This represents 'sustainable forest management' and 'commitment to biodiversity' ? It is unbelievable that such practice can be acceptable within the criteria for Forest Stewardship Council certification as awarded through Soil Association (Woodmark). Come on ye desk-bound bureaucrats who endorse this nonsensical rape of the landscape - GET REAL ! ! Let's have some genuine commitment to biodiversity and sustainability through the planting of more native woodlands to be managed on a truly sustainable 'continuous-cover' basis - adding social, environmental and economic benefits for sustainable development of communities. Yours, etc, Bob Wilson Flagmount Co.Clare (contact phone 087-632-4644) Editors Note: Friends of the Irish Environment are currently preparing a report on clearfelling which clearly demonstrates the environmental damage caused by current clearfell practices, particularly on fragile soils.

2.2 Stick to the facts Tony. Dear Mr Lowes Please correct your/coillte news letter. Ireland has produced 3 draft standards. See IFCI web site FIE was represented by Caroline for the last 5 years. The Social Chamber has not been represented since Caroline and Stephen Kink voted to illegally expel me. Caroline agreed that IFCI were abiding with company laws when she withdrew the expulsion notices on the directors. There never was a first Draft The Process started with the Public consultation. In 2000 each rep knew exactly how to address each submission. There were over 200 submissions received. Funding was never an issue for either My self or Andrew St ledger. Only the written submissions were circulated. The verbal submissions were in the hands of the reps elected to represent these submissions. The IFCI collapsed when Andrew St ledger and My self withdrew from the Process. You also state Principle 6 was agreed in August 2003. This is untrue. The PaP rep never agreed Principle 6 At an AGM Caroline proposed that The Second Draft be accepted. Gemma Bootersbees sat at a meeting where the Economic Chamber were allowed vote on a matter solely related to the Social Chamber, Namely whether I should represent the Social Chamber. FIE should accept the blame for failing to have the submissions addressed. It was up to each rep to notify people. Caroline failed to notify people and the reports sent by myself to this news letter were not published. The minutes of each meeting should on the FIE web site. IFCI expelled me, refused to allow Andrew St ledger take his seat, refused to work with NGOs IFCI refused to the changes necessary for WLL to get involved. NGOs will not accept a fee to participate. IFCI and FIE have blocked NGOS from participating. FIE were and still are involved in the IFCI Process and FIE have worked with coillte in producing the Third Draft. Stick to the facts Tony. Regards Brendan This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Index

3. NEWS 3.1 Coillte sells stake in Austrian venture The state forestry company, Coillte, has sold its share in its Austrian joint venture, which will result in the loss of 32 jobs. Coillte's 70% stake in Griffner Coillte, which designs and manufactures buildings made from timber, was sold to the other partner in the venture, GriffnerHaus. Financial details of the transaction are not being disclosed. Sales and construction will be maintained in Ireland while manufacturing will be relocated to the GriffnerHaus plant in Austria. This will result in 32 redundancies at the company, with staff numbers are reduced to 9, a statement said today. The company will now enter into the statutory consultation with staff in relation to redundancy arrangements, it said. Under the terms of the deal, the Austrian company will acquire 100% ownership of the business and will continue to serve its Irish customers under the new name of GriffnerHaus Ireland. Gerry Britchfield, MD of Coillte Enterprise said: "We have been conducting a strategic review of all our businesses and took the decision that the manufacture and construction of timber frame houses is not a core part of the future of Coillte'. ¬© RTE Online 

3.2 Biofuel bonanza expected from Norwegian wood Norway's forestry and wood processing industries could produce biofuels covering up to 30 per cent of demand in the road transport sector within two decades and create 10,000 jobs in the process, according to a report commissioned by the transport ministry. Given the "long-term framework conditions" to promote investment in second-generation biofuels, the domestic biofuel sector could produce over 20 terawatt hours of biofuel energy per year at a production cost of NKr0.2 (E0.02) per kilowatt hour. Large-scale production could begin in four to six years. The publication of the report last week follows budgetary proposals to boost biofuel use. The potential increase in transport biofuel penetration dwarfs the EU target of 10 per cent biofuel use by 2020. Follow-up: See Norwegian transport ministry press release and report (both in Norwegian). Index 3.3 'Protected' Congo forest is logged regardless The logging company Safbois signed a contract with the village of Yafunga agreeing to build a school for the community; three years later, the school is still not completed. Logging concessions issued in the DRC between 2002 and 2005 enable the deforestation of an area 5 times the size of Belgium. In total, 21 million hectares of rainforest in the DRC are currently allocated to the logging industry; most of the timber is exported to Europe, with France and Belgium currently the largest importers (Image: Greenpeace/Kate Davison)EnlargeTools Advertisement The world's second largest forest, one of the oldest on Earth, is being traded for bars of soap and bottles of beer, a Greenpeace report has revealed. A moratorium on logging in the Congo forest was agreed with the World Bank and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in May 2002. But the new report reveals that, between then and October 2005, the government issued large numbers of concessions giving logging companies access to the forest. Together, the concessions amount to 15 million hectares, an area five times the area of Belgium. "Forty million Congolese depend in one way or another for their survival on the Congo forest," says Stephan Van Praet of Greenpeace, who coordinated the research for the report, entitled Carving up the Congo. "I can assure you they know the value of their forest. If you cut the sapele trees you take away the caterpillars they rely on as a source of protein." The Congo forest is an important biodiversity hotspot. It is home to okapi, bonobo monkeys, the Congo peacock, but is also an important source of African teak, used for building furniture and flooring. Not one dollar In the 2002 deal, the World Bank agreed to provide $90 million of development aid to DRC with the proviso that the government did not issue any new concessions granting logging companies rights to exploit the forest. The deal also prohibited the renewal of existing concessions. Under the agreement, remaining legal concessions would be taxed and 40% of the taxes paid to communities local to the logged areas. In this way, the World Bank hoped that limited legal logging could be used as a way to help local communities develop. But Greenpeace says that "not one dollar of the tax that has actually been collected between 2003 and 2006 has been redistributed to local authorities". "Most people recognise that large scale concessions are not terribly efficient way of supporting development," agrees Duncan MacQueen, senior researcher in forest policy at the International Institute for Environment and Development in the UK. Not only did the DRC's government fail to redistribute the taxes to local communities, it also granted 15 million hectares in new concessions to international logging companies, in breach of the World Bank's moratorium. "Gift packages" Greenpeace researchers visiting the local communities that were supposed to benefit from the legal logging activities found that the communities have been offered goods worth $100 in exchange for granting access to wood worth many thousands of dollars. The "gift package" offered by one logging company, Sodefor, generally comprises two sacks of salt, 18 bars of soap, four packets of coffee, 24 bottles of beer and two bags of sugar, Greenpeace reported. "Sometimes people say they do not even have a piece of timber to bury their dead," says Van Praet. Greenpeace is calling on the World Bank to "think outside the box" and use the forest's potential in the battle against climate change. It says that 8% of the Earth's forest-based carbon is stored in the DRC's forests. Predictions for future deforestation estimate that by 2050 activities in the DRC will release roughly the same amount of carbon dioxide as the UK has emitted over the last 60 years. Avoided deforestation In its current form, the Kyoto protocol does not reward so-called "avoided deforestation", initiatives that protect forest from being cut down. But many climate scientists and policymakers hope that negotiations for Kyoto's successor will include such measures. If this were the case, there could be a financial incentive for protecting forests. "We know it will take some years, but there has to be political will and if the World Bank put themselves behind it, well, they are the major deciders," Van Praet told New Scientist. MacQueen is less optimistic. "I know a lot of countries think that makes a lot of sense. The Stern report even calculated the economic cost of avoided deforestation," he says, "but it's difficult to know what payment for avoided deforestation would mean in practice." Whose forest? For MacQueen, the main problem is the tricky question of who owns the forest. In most developing countries it is accepted that the state owns the forest, not the local communities who depend on it for their livelihoods. This means there is no guarantee the communities will reap the benefit of avoided deforestation. "Often, the only way of showing you own a piece of forest is to show you are doing something on it, like cutting trees down," MacQueen explains. Under these conditions of uncertain ownership, it can be more lucrative for local people to chop down trees and plant crops than to protect the forest. "I have no doubt whatsoever that if you have poverty eradication in mind, community-owned forestry is the way to go," says MacQueen. Papua New Guinea, Mexico and Guatemala have all successfully granted forested land to associations of local communities who are certified to exploit the forest sustainably. The DRC's current government, inaugurated in January 2007, has stated that it will honour the moratorium, and is now investigating the legality of concessions issued since 2002. Index 3.4 Tree trade could save planet from global warming Saving the planet from global warming is easy: just start paying countries not to slash and burn their tropical rainforest. That's faster and cheaper than new technology to trap or block the carbon dioxide we produce by burning fossil fuels, according to a report published on Monday by the Global Canopy Programme in Oxford, UK. "In the next 24 hours, deforestation will release as much carbon dioxide as would be produced by aircraft carrying 8 million people from London to New York," says Andrew Mitchell of the Global Canopy Programme. So instead of limiting air travel, for example, just pay for forests to be left alone. The potential to prevent CO2 emissions is huge, as deforestation accounts for 18 per cent of all emissions, second only to the 24 per cent from power stations. Forests also have other "free" effects that are useful to commerce and agriculture, such as generating rain and stabilising temperatures, so it might be possible to find ways of charging for these "services" as well, Mitchell says. Yet existing forests are excluded from today's schemes for trading carbon credits. The Kyoto protocol, for example, only allows credit payments for newly planted forests; so farmers can get more money by cutting down virgin forest and growing trees anew than if they spared the original forest. Mitchell hopes this will change in December when the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change convenes in Bali, Indonesia. For anti-deforestation schemes to work, there must be pay-offs larger than those available for clearing forest, he says. Brazil, for example, has proposed a scheme to generate rainforest credits. ¬© New Scientist Index 3.5 Soybean boom spells bad news for climate CHOPPING down the Amazon rainforest to plant soybean crops is more detrimental to the climate than clearing space to graze cows. Fields of soybean reduce rainfall dramatically, over four times as much as pastureland. Around 13 per cent of the original Brazilian rainforest has been cleared so far, with 85 per cent turned into pasture and 15 per cent into soybean fields. However, these plantations are rapidly expanding thanks to soya's popularity as a food and suitability as a biofuel. To measure how different land use affects climate, Marcos Costa from the Federal University of Vi?ßosa in Brazil, and colleagues, measured changes in albedo or reflectivity over experimental plots of soybean and pastureland. They then plugged the data into a climate model to investigate the effect of the change in land use. Clearance of any kind caused a decline in rainfall but soybean dried up the skies much more than pastureland (Geophysical Research Letters, DOI: 10.1029/2007GL029271). When three-quarters of the forest plots were cleared for soybean, there was a 15.7 per cent decrease in precipitation, while the same clearance for pasture produced a 3.9 per cent decrease. The stronger reflectivity of soybean fields was to blame. "With a higher albedo than pasture - and forest - the soybean crop absorbs less solar radiation, heating the surface less, decreasing convection and cloudiness and, in the end, causing less precipitation," explains Costa. Carefully planned farming might help to reduce the damage. "Inter-cropping or designing a better spatial arrangement of forest and cropland could produce a better result," says Jon Lovett, an environmental scientist at the University of York, UK. Soybean may eventually lose some of its popularity. "It could well be that biofuel production from other sources will be cheaper than high-protein soybeans," says Lovett. Nonetheless, the soybean boom shows no sign of abating for the moment, with the construction of the 1144-kilometre trans-oceanic highway connecting Brazil's Atlantic ports to Peru's Pacific ports, and the paving of the BR-163 highway, making export of agricultural products to international markets much easier. ¬© New Scientist Index 4. ARTICLE OF THE WEEK Forest Stewardship Council's [FSC] Forestry Certification: frustrating sustainable forestry - Woodmark Forest Certification Public Report on Coillte Teo Woodmark, a division of the UK's respected Soil Association, are the Forest Stewardship Council's Auditors in Ireland who are responsible for ensuring that the activities of Coillte Teo are conducted to the standards set by the Forest Stewardship Council. Because Ireland has not yet adopted its own standard [See FNN 175 for the detailed reasons why], the audit is done against a combination of standards but must ultimately accord with the FSC's 10 Principles and Criterion. The last Woodmark report was undertaken in 2006 and has just been released. A new international website recently establish to documents the problems with the FSC system hopes to generate an open discussion of these problems. As industry commentator Chris Lang notes, The site contains information on a number of certificates issued by the FSC where areas of forest are being badly managed or destroyed, or where other important wildlife habitats, such as wetlands, are also being damaged. While these examples may or may not be typical of all FSC-certified operations, they demonstrate that something is seriously wrong with the FSC's certification system. For Ireland, FSC-watch summarised the current status of the Coillte audit: 'When Woodmark took over the Coillte certificate from SGS in 2003, they inherited 15 CARs. This increased to 32 in early 2006 when Woodmark carried out its first full re-certification. The new report, resulting from Woodmark's annual surveillance in December 2006, reveals that a staggering 43 CARs, 'Conditions', 'Recommendations' and 'Pre-Conditions' have been issued, including 5 Major CARs. Whilst Woodmark has long justified its maintenance of the Coillte certificate as a means of encouraging 'continuous improvement' of the company's performance, the evidence thus suggests that Coillte is going backwards, not forwards.' He quotes the history of the problems with public consultation with which FNN readers will be familiar. For example, in 2003 Woodmark issued a 'Minor CAR' requiring Coillte to "develop and document an adequate procedure for resolution of disputes and grievances with local people". In 2006, ignoring all the evidence that local people had been providing of Coillte's actual contempt for their concerns, Woodmark downgraded this to a mere 'recommendation', noting lamely that "There is scope to improve the management of disputes and grievances". Now, fully four years on from its original assessment of Coillte, Woodmark has had to issue exactly the same CAR as before, only this time elevated to a Major CAR. The fact that Coillte has failed to resolve this problem after four years - and indeed, as reported repeatedly on FSC-Watch, appears to have got worse - should be grounds enough for immediate cancellation of the certificate.' Aside from the issues that FSC-watch addresses, the overriding message from the Audit is that the key issues about Coillte's forestry policy are 'outside the scope of Woodmark's remit'. These issues are characterised as 'The wider debate'. But they are in fact the core issues in Irish forestry, and they are key issues for FSC, the social and environment issues. They comprise (for a start): ' Requiring Coillte to meet the Government's 30% broadleaf planting target ' Ceasing forestation of peat soils (pear soils as defined under the Nitrates Regulations) ' Limiting clearfell sizes and moving to sustainable forestry management ' Cumulative Environmental Impact Assessment /Strategic Impact Assessment ' Access to all information about the above FSC requires that environmental and social considerations be given equal weight to the economic in forestry. The failure of Coillte Teo. to do this is identified as the 'root cause' of stakeholder dissatisfaction but 'beyond the scope of an FSC evaluation.' 'The wider debate' about the extent to which Coilte as a state owned body should be delivering wider benefits to society is dicussed [sic] elsewhere in this report (e.g. under criteria 5.1, 5.6, 10.4) but is ultimately considered to be an issue for national forest policy in Ireland and beyond the scope of an FSC evaluation.' Expressed another way: 'Ultimately it is considered that the tension between the desire from stakeholders to see clearer provision of public benefit and the commercial mandate under which Coillte operates is a national forest policy issue and goes beyond the scope of an FSC evaluation. Coillte has a clear commercial remit. Arguably this constrains the company's ability to deliver wider economic benefits to Irish society as a whole. Even though it is a state owned organisation that might be expected to provide a range of non-market benefits (economic, social and environmental), the requirement for the company to make a financial profit limits the extent to which this is possible. This is further exacerbated by the low commodity prices available for timber which in turn has resulted in Coillte seeking other sources of income. Whilst this may be the root cause of many of the negative stakeholder comments received by Woodmark, ultimately this is an issue for national forest policy and is beyond the scope of an FSC evaluation.' This is difficult to understand, as it contradicts the basic FSC requirement that 'forest resources and associated lands should be managed to meet the social, economic, ecological, cultural and spiritual needs of present and future generations. The auditor's job is to determine if Coillte Teo is meeting FSC's standard for 'social and environmental' benefits, and these must include obligations incurred both through the FSC Principles and Criterion and through international agreements and binding treaties such as the Lisbon Convention. Take carbon sequestration. This was given in the Irish Department of Finance 2006 Tax Review as of far greater value to the Irish economy than the timber product itself. This report gives the average annual value 2000 - 2004 of timber as €89.54m while the average value of carbon sequestration is given €115.21m. What does Woodmark say about this key issue on which Ireland is pitching its current submissions for funding to the EU? 'Carbon storage. Concern that afforestation on peat sites is counterproductive in terms of Carbon storage. Woodmark recognises that this may be the case, however carbon cycle issues lie outside the scope of FSC certification.' What? This is an environmental impact, no? This falls under FSC Principle 6, Environmental Impact: 'Forest management shall conserve biological diversity and its associated values, water resources, soils, and unique and fragile ecosystems and landscapes, and, by so doing, maintain the ecological functions and the integrity of the forest.' It is also specifically covered by the Lisbon Convention's first of their six Criteria: 'Maintenance and appropriate enhancement of forest resources and their contribution to global carbon cycles.' And then there is the Kyoto Protocol. Leaving aside Principle 6, how does Woodmark avoid assessing this impact of forestry, in view of the clear FSC requirement to ensure that certified forestry companies adhere to all international agreements such as the Lisbon Convention and the Kyoto Protocol? This is how: 'whilst criterion 1.3 refers to respect for international agreements it does not explicitly refer to the Kyoto Protocol. Carbon sequestration is therefore currently beyond the scope of an FSC evaluation.' Criterion 1.3 states that it is a requirement of a certified company to respect 'all binding international agreements'. Both the Lisbon Convention and the Kyoto Protocol are 'binding international agreements'. The refusal to deal with carbon sequestration issues when the European Environmental Agency has pointed out that 84% of Irish forestry 1990, 2000 went onto peat soils is fairly astonishing. Even basic definitions of peat soil have been misquoted by the Irish authorities to cover up the continuing planting of peaty soils with its environmental impact [FNN 150 & 172 [] but 'carbon cycle issues lie outside the scope of FSC certification'. Natural regeneration. Without comment or any suggestion of corrective action, Woodmark records that out of it reafforestation of 40,000 hectares, no natural regeneration has been used by Coillte Teo. And then we have felling of areas over 25 hectares. [Remember that felling over 5 hectares is highlighted in the Forest Service Biodiversity Guidelines as a danger to ecological continuity.] 'Most felling coupe sizes and the rate of felling are consistent with the requirements of the standard. However, coupe sizes significantly in excess of the those specified in the standard are used in some regions (up to 80ha). There is scope to allow for large coupes subject to Landscape Design Plans being produced to justify the scale. However such plans have not been completed for all areas within which large scale felling is planned. Furthermore some of the areas in which large scale felling is planned coincide with sensitive water catchments and whilst buffer zones to such planned felling are being considered firm plans for these areas are not yet in place. Given the known potential risks of large scale felling in these catchments it is essential that the moratorium on large scale clear fells be maintained and that alternative plans incorporating an assessment of the environmental impacts be prepared before harvesting takes place. Condition 2006.14.' In fact, the moratorium referred to is very limited in geographical area and governed only by the presence of sites designated under the Habitats Directive, by no means all of such sites where protected species [such as the fresh water pearl mussel] live. And at what remove will felling affect the 27 rivers which are now SACs and host to the mussel? Does Woodmark think that sediment transport is limited to 6 km upriver from a site, as the draft Irish Guidelines tried to maintain in spite of best scientific knowledge? Or does it accept the fact that sediment transport in rivers is limited only by the length of the River As for restructuring plans, Coillte has informed Friends of the Irish Environment, as part of their studies of clearfelling, that no restructuring plans are required unless the forest block is '60 hectares or more in area AND of the same age or contain areas which are within 2 years, plus or minus - the age of the main portion of the crop'! Coillte states that this 60ha threshold was agreed with FSC. Should Coillte like another landowner even fence its forests? Not according to Woodmark. 359 Fencing. Negative comment was received in relation to the condition of forest fences. In the absence of a clear fencing responsibility Coillte policy is to fence plantations where appropriate during the establishment phase to protect planted seedlings/transplants. Thereafter fencing may deteriorate, however, in the [sic] absence of Coillte having a clearly defined liability to fence it is seen as the responsibility of adjacent landowners to fence against their own livestock. This approach does not appear to be inconsistent with any FSC criteria. It is, however, inconsistent with the Irish Code of Best Forest Practice, adherence to which is required by FSC certification: 'Other maintenance Fences, gates, and styles Proper fencing is crucial to prevent damage from trespassing animals. Gaps in the fenceline should be repaired, and styles and gates maintained and kept in a safe condition. [Irish Code of Best Forest Practice, 9.4.2]' In this case, then, we have the FSC auditors permitting practices that do not meet the standards required by the national Code of Best Forestry Practice when FSC Principle 1 states clearly 'Forest management shall respect all national and local laws and administrative requirements.' Sometimes issues have been identified in one section of the report, 'foreign nationals used in application of chemicals have not been trained due to a lack of interpreters', but do not appear in the section requiring Corrective Actions. For reafforestation on peaty soils we are told there is a 'growing awareness' of the issue, perhaps due in part to the numerous submissions made by ENGOs over the last 8 years. But a 'growing awareness' will save no threatened species, only changes in practices will do that. There is even a reference to the replanting on acid peaty soils where rock phosphate fails to be taken up by the trees and encourage growth only in the adjacent water bodies. Here we are told what presumably Woodmark has been told by Coillte, 'national regulatory requirements limit the extent to which forest areas may be removed'. 546 Bog habitats. Stakeholder consultation has queried the establishment of plantation on bog habitats. Historically, in common with other areas in the British Isles, plantations in Ireland were established on land that were considered marginal in agricultural terms and on sites that were least costly to acquire. These often included bog land areas. In more recent years the biodiversity value of some of these areas has been recognised and there is a growing awareness of their fragility as ecosystems. In addition the economic productivity of such sites is increasingly seen as marginal. Coillte are not currently acquiring or afforesting such sites. Some areas are being restored to bog land habitat through the removal of trees with no restocking. Some areas remain that are currently afforested and likely to remain so (national regulatory requirements limit the extent to which forest areas may be removed). Woodmark has issued previous recommendations relating to review of drainage, site disturbance and stability in upland peats. Woodmark recognises the benefit of bog restoration. No further action proposed. The situation, as FNN readers know, is not quite so simple. The Department has confirmed that environmental reasons may be used to waive the requirement for reafforestation, in effect 'removing' forest areas. Woodmark appears ignorant of this, and yet they are the body charged with ensuring that the best permitted environmental practices are employed. While the Audit Report proposes no further action, further action will indeed be forthcoming, but no thanks to Woodmark or FSC, but thanks to the European Commission's recently announced infringement proceedings under the Habitats Directive. So much for 'commitment to proactively maintaining an awareness of legal issues and responsibilities' and 'has responded positively to non-compliances when identified.' Perhaps the finest example of Woodmark's ability to slide out of its Auditor's responsibilities comes with the question of the percentage of exotic conifers that Coillte continues to plan with their damage to native biodiversity. The FSC Principles and Criterion make it plain that 'The use of exotic species shall be carefully controlled and actively monitored to avoid adverse ecological impacts.' Yet Woodmark concludes that species composition is 'needs to be resolved within the national standards development process and is not one that it is appropriate for Woodmark to become involved in'. The torturous logic they come up with to defend the low broadleaf planting rate (entirely ignoring its even lower rate for reforestation] reads as follows: Woodmark's has combined the requirements of the Woodmark Generic Standard, UKWAS standard and draft Irish Standard and taken the most demanding combination of proportions of species. These requirements remain below the national target for annual broadleaf afforestation reflected in the 1996 Strategic Plan for the Forest Sector in Ireland. The Forest Service does not currently consider that these national strategic targets should be applied at forest level and Coillte do comply with Forest Service minimum broadleaf targets of 10%. Or do they? Look at the Audit's comment on the method of counting broadleaves: It was also noted that Coillte are basing their 10% BL restocking target on the number of trees planted rather than the area restocked. There is a risk that this prescriptive approach could lead to the actual areas under BL failing to meet the 10% target if best practice establishment techniques are not followed. A risk, is it? Perhaps long standing readers of FNN will remember that we suggested that the mysterious rise in broadleaf afforestation of 8% reported in 2003 to the European Commission that allowed Ireland to meet the new 30% broadleaf rate was due to just such accounting methods. For those who do not remember FNN 136 - The Hunt for the Missing Broadleaves - what this means is that to achieve a hectare of broadleaves you have to plant two to three times as many trees. The conifer stocking rate is 2,500 trees a hectare. The oak, or beech, Coillte's predominant broadleaf species, stocking rate is 6,600 trees per hectare. Say then that Coillte (or the Government) reports trees by the number planted rather than by the normal area planted. 100,000 trees are planted. 10% are indeed broadleaves. But 90,000 sitka spruce at 2,500 trees a hectare equals 36 hectares. 10,000 oak trees at 6,600 per hectare equals 1.5 hectares, a 4% broadleaf planting rate. This is indeed 'the actual areas under BL failing to meet the 10% target'. No corrective action required, no withdrawal of certification. Given the clear ecological damage that sitka spruce inflicts on the environment, at a minimum they require fertilisers which broadleaves do not, how does this Woodmark approach in any way deal with the FSC requirements to 'carefully control' the use of exotic species when even the modest 1996 National Plan targets are missed by more than half? At this rate of planting the rate of change in overall species will be infinitesimal, but according to Woodmark the only way to speed this up is to 'prematurely fell thousands of hectares of forest'! Further issues raised by stakeholders have been the rate of change of species proportion and the degree of commitment by Coillte to establishing broadleaf content in forest stands. Current species proportions do not comply with standard requirements, however, it is not reasonable to require forest managers to prematurely fell thousands of hectares of forest in order to accelerate the rate of change of species proportion change, rather, it is considered appropriate to allow this change to proceed over time in a planned manner to coincide with harvesting and restocking plans. The only way to increase the species proportion change is to change the proportion of broadleaves planted. To, say, require that Coillte Teo meet the national target of 30%. And by area, not by trees planted. But as we have seen, Wookmark claims that this is 'beyond the remit of Woodmark'. Woodmark appears to be simply ignorant of the issues surrounding the rights of citizens to environmental information, and they aren't reading FNN. The authors deal only with Coillte's obligations under the Freedom of Information Act. 369 Coillte is operating according to its legally defined mandate, and thereby falls outside the Freedom of Information Act 1997 according to Irish Law (although this currently understood to be under review). What the authors do not mention is the European Access to Information on the Environment Directives [and their implementing Statutory Instruments] or the repeated Judgements of the European Court that Coillte is a public authority and must come under this Directive, in spite of Coillte's denials. It's not just that this whole key issue is entirely ignored. Woodmark actually claims that Coillte 'respects the outcomes of the due legal process' when Coillte is consistently denying in Ireland that it is a public authority although the sole shareholders are Government Ministers and it must lay a Report before the Oireachtas each year! This is not respecting the legal process, as the status of Coillte as a public authority has been ultimately determined by the European Court of Justice, against which there is no further appeal. 422. Conclusion. It is not unreasonable to expect that a company the size of Coillte will be subject to legal challenge from a variety of sources from time to time. The company has demonstrated a commitment to proactively maintaining an awareness of legal issues and responsibilities and has responded positively to non-compliances when identified. Whilst Coillte has challenged legal cases against it, it has demonstrated [sic] that it respects the outcomes of due legal process and any FSC certified organisation should have the right to establish its own legal rights. No non compliance with FSC requirements is therefore noted. The FSC requirement is that Coillte Teo. obey the law. The ultimate Court of our land is the European Court of Justice, from which there is no appeal. It has determined (twice) that Coillte is a public authority. Coillte denies this and is thus in non-compliance with FSC requirements. No corrective action, no withdrawal of certification. Finally, we note the closing of the Corrective Action on the felling of trees marked for retention when 'An example was seen where trees intended for retention had been inadvertently felled by a harvesting contractor'. In the case of the one of the felling sites studies by FIE, the broadleaves were actually felled not during the felling operation or the restoration by mistake, but afterwards, deliberatly, and without a license, as the site was composed of conifers and felled with a General Felling Licence which does not authorise the felling of broadleaves. We all know that even if the figures Coillte supplies of its broadleaf planting represented hectares, these areas are largely thin strips of broadleaves - less than the minimum 30 metres width required to be counted as commercial broadleaves. Not only should they then not satisfy part of the national broadleaf requirement, but their premature and unlicensed felling mocks 'national targets'. Closed again was the issue of negative impacts upon water quality and damage to freshwater species in sensitive, heavily forested water catchments' even though 'further work is required and best practice adopted throughout the organisation.' Closed too was the complaint that 'Buffer zones within which harvesting does not place have not been established around all permanent water courses' even though Coillte has admitted to FIE that neither buffer zones nor silt traps were employed within one steep site near the Rossnacroo Millennium Forest in County Kerry. The resultant environmental damage photographed by FIE has to be classed as an 'ecologically catastrophic'. The issue of 'Invasive non native shrub species are present in some areas and there is limited control' was closed because a Draft policy has been produced by Coillte. No evidence was shown that any controls in the 360,000 hectare estate have actually taken place, surely the only reason for closing out such an issue? And closed too is the issue of harvesting creating sediment in water as there 'were no significant loss of sediment reported in various water monitoring reports.' We are, therefore, supposed to believe that Coillte is harvesting almost 10,000 hectares a year of forestry, much of it on fragile upland peat soils, with no significant loss of sediment? As Chris Lang wrote: 'While these examples may or may not be typical of all FSC-certified operations, they demonstrate that something is seriously wrong with the FSC's certification system.' Index 5. ABOUT US FNN is an independent voluntary service. It is distributed only by e-mail and is free. It receives no funding from any source. Newsletter editors: Caroline Lewis This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Tony Lowes This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. The editors take collective responsibility for what they publish. The omission of an authors name indicates that the editors generally agree with and stand over the contents. There may be and often are a number of collaborating authors on each article and additionally some authors may for valid reasons not wish to be identified. This does not mean the editors never make mistakes and they look forward to having their attention drawn to any factual inaccuracies in any articles they have published. Fully searchable Forest Network Newsletter archive and free email subscriptions are at: FNN is supported by the Friends of the Irish Environment free internet services. Please visit their Home Page The FIE network includes the highly popular The Irish Papers Today [TIPT], a review of the days Irish papers and selected sources outside Ireland about the environment. This is available as an early morning daily email and from the website, which is updated every day. You can subscribe and unsubscribe through this site. A newsfeed with the changing headlines is also available free for any website. Index

FNN 178: ‘Irish Forestry: Give Us the SEA' calls for an Strategic Environmental Assessment to lay the groundwork for a sustainable national forestry policy. The legal exemption from SEA in Irish law only applied while forestry was EU funded - which is no longer the case. Has the loophole become a noose?

FSC - the Irish ‘greenwash'. Forestry contractors join environmentalist to protest over clearfell damage. Maps tracking the vanishing Hen harrier and the fresh water pearl mussel. The INFF Forestry Conference. Forestry and climate change. Coillte: its legal status; how it is exporting permethrine with the adhesive Flexcoat to the UK where it is unauthorised; its non return of €8 million in unauthorised grants required by the EU Court since 2002. An obituary for Crann.


Click on this link for the archived email html illustrated version

Irish Forestry: Give us the SEA

Forests affect the environment in many ways. When managed sustainably through low impact silvicultural systems using appropriate species they enhance native biodiversity, protect waters and soils and provide a multitude of social and economic resources.

Unfortunately in Ireland the practice is high impact forestry on marginal agricultural land and this has resulted in loss of native habitat, soil erosion and water pollution.  This type of forestry is particularly damaging in this country due to high rainfall and storm events.

Environmental NGOs have campaigned for decades for reforms in Ireland's forest policy. Government policy appears to encourage sustainable forestry but the practice of plantation forestry destined for clearfell on unsuitable sites continues.

Forestry remains governed by the 1996 Forestry Plan ‘Growing for the Future' with its target of 20,000 hectares a year until 2030 to achieve ‘critical mass' - its justification for fast growing poor quality non-native conifers. Planting rates over the last 5 years were less than 9,000 hectares a year and in 2007 fell to 6,947 hectares.[1] No country in the European Union is in more need of a Strategic Environmental Assessment of forestry than Ireland.

The EPA's 2008 Review states:[2]

"SEA been a legal requirement since July 2004, and has been applied at national, regional, county and local levels. As of July 2008, a total of 117 SEAs were at various stages. Of the 11 sectors specified in the Directive, Land Use Planning has had the most significant take up. While many of the economic sectors are now beginning to address requirements of the SEA Directive, it is notable that a number of significant sectors in particular the forestry, transport and tourism sectors, have yet to engage meaningfully in the process."

Ireland's implementation of the SEA Directive in 2004 specifically excluded forestry funded by the European Commission.[3] As Ireland's 2008 forestry programme is no longer funded under these programmes, the exemption no longer applies and the Minister for Agriculture is now in breach not just of the Directive but of the State's own domestic legislation in failing to meet their obligation to undertake an SEA of forestry. The loophole has become a noose.


To inform our readers of the issues, we provide here a summary of who controls forestry in Ireland, what its impact is, and what can be done. 


1. Who Controls Forestry?

Government Policy

The Government Strategy for Forestry has as its main elements:


  • to increase the productive forest area to 1.2 million hectares and increase farmer planting in particular in the interests of rural development,
  • to increase the diversity of species in Irish forests in order to achieve better timber quality, to extend the range of potential end-uses, to reduce risks associated with monocultures for environmental and landscape purposes,
  • to ensure that forestry development is compatible with the protection of the environment,
  • to encourage the provision of public access to forests having regard to the rights of owners and the development of amenity forestry projects of local social and economic benefit,
  • to develop an internationally competitive sawmilling sector based on sound commercial principles,
  • to promote the establishment and continued development of a range of complementary primary, secondary and tertiary (including non-wood) forest- based processing industries so as to provide outlets for the output of Ireland's forests and to maximise the share of domestic and export markets which can be captured by such output,
  • to promote quality in all aspects of Irish forestry and to ensure that forest products and services meet all relevant national and international standards,
  • to promote research and development focused on the strengths of the Irish forestry sector with particular emphasis on market demands, industrial needs, environmental concerns and cost efficiency,
  • to develop a comprehensive inventory and planning system to provide forest resource, geographical and environmental data for management, control and planning purposes,
  • to ensure the availability and delivery of suitable programmes of education and training to cater for the increasing number of new entrants into forestry and the growth in scale and diversity in the sector.[4]

From an environmental and social (amenity) perspective this looks hopeful with commitments to ‘increase the diversity of species in Irish forests in order to achieve better timber quality, to extend the range of potential end-uses, to reduce risks associated with monocultures for environmental and landscape purposes', ‘to ensure that forestry development is compatible with the protection of the environment' - and so on.


Government Departments

Responsibility for implementing the government's forest strategy resides with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (DAFF). Other government departments that are likely to have an ‘interest' in forest policy are the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment, the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, and the Department of Transport. 


Forestry Research

National Council for Forestry Research and Development (COFORD)

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (currently Mr Brendan Smith TD) is advised on forest policy by the National Council for Forestry Research and Development (COFORD). 


COFORD's Council consist of 12 members from DAFF, Coillte, Teagasc the IFA and the forest industry. There is not one representative from social or environmental NGOs or even from other Government departments (listed above) that cross over with policy e.g. National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Fisheries Boards, or the Environmental Protection Agency.


COFORD's advice is that the ‘primary focus in commercial forests should be on competitive wood production' and they [commercial forests] ‘should not be the primary mechanism to deliver a biodiversity service'. 


‘Driving industry competitiveness is one of the key facets underpinning COFORD's funding.'[5]


COFORDs advice on land use is that

‘Over the next 2 decades land use will have to shift from predominantly food - to food and fuel (forestry). Also need to critically examine role of REPS - should so much land be tied into biodiversity provision?'

In fact COFORD seeks to separate biodiversity from productive areas rather than ensuring that biodiversity is an integral component of the forest ecosystem.

‘Need for clarity on objectives in NDP -wood production/biodiversity

Twin track approach needed -separate out biodiversity and commercial wood production

Irish and international research shows biodiversity provision per se is best done at a landscape level by connectivity, establishment of native woodland, corridors in plantations. Wood production needs to be compatible with biodiversity conservation and sustainable forest management but should not be the primary mechanism to deliver a biodiversity service, primary focus in commercial forests should be on competitive wood production Twin track approach - commercial production forests (compatible with SFM) and biodiverse areas[6]'


The Forest Service

Advised by COFORD, the Forest Service administers a range of grant aided-forest schemes. They require that ‘both conifer and broadleaf sites which are proposed for planting must be capable of producing a commercial sawlog crop of wood.[7]' So again the emphasis is on the commercial. 


DAFF promote forestry through several forestry schemes.[8]


The best of these schemes is the Native Woodland Scheme, officially launched in October 2001 and expected to have addressed the management of at least 5,000 hectares of native woodland by the end of 2006. Unfortunately this is a mere 0.8% of the national forest estate. And even here there have been significant environmental problems with large-scale clearfell of mature ‘exotic' species and the use of herbicides. In 2008 funding for Native Woodland restoration was cut and its future looks uncertain.


Main stream forestry is covered by the afforestation scheme and FEPS.  So how is main stream forestry matching up to economic, social, and environmental requirements?


The Forest Service operates to a number of standards, codes and guidelines. Forestry is self assessed and, in practice even where complaints are made little action is taken when environmental damage occurs.[9] In order to keep up with the current best scientific knowledge and practice the suit of forestry documents and Guidelines are in urgent need of revision. 


The exotic (non-native) ‘non-diverse'[10] conifers Sitka spruce and Lodgepole pine continues to dominate the forest estate, occupying 62.4% of total forest area, with ‘diverse' conifers at 11% and broadleaves 24%. However 50% of the Broadleaf area (i.e. 12% of the ‘forest area') consists of broadleaf scrub and hedgerow species such as blackthorn, crab apple, rusty willow and goat willow etc.[11] This means that at a maximum only 12% of the forest estate equates to a potential hard wood timber resource.


In fact even this 12% estimate is likely to be much less as:


  • Many broadleaves are also counted as part of the biodiversity requirement
  • Sparsely treed areas (20% cover) are included - e.g. naturally regenerated birch etc. on cutaway bogs. 


Only 2.5% of the forest estate is of oak - once Ireland's National Tree. And genetic analysis has shown that for many ‘native' broadleaves the provenance is not native. 


The State Forestry Board - Coillte Teo.

In practice, the States forests - circa 460,000 hectares or 11% of the land area - are managed by Coillte Teoranta (Coillte) the state forestry board which has as its main objects:


  1. To carry on the business of forestry and related activities on a commercial basis and in accordance with efficient silvicultural practices.
  2. To establish and carry on woodland industries
  3. To participate with others in forestry and related activities consistent with its objects, designed to enhance the effective and profitable operation of the Company,
  4. To utilise and manage the resources available to it in a manner consistent with the above objects. (1988 Forestry Act)


The legal status of Coillte Teo tries to indicate on its website that it is a private company which purchased the state's forests in a management buyout: "When Coillte was established in 1989 we acquired ownership of the State's forests in return for shares valued at IR£575 million (€730 million)".[12] But in fact it was created by and is wholly owned by the State.[13]


Coillte's recent economic review gave broadleaves a negative value and Sitka spruce is considered the only species to give an adequate economic return. This report underpins Coillte's forest policy but the data used is inaccurate.[14] The questions raised in FIE's analysis remain unanswered.  Coillte's policy has shifted only to the degree that they are planting Sitka spruce onto better land which would support broadleaves to increase their average yield class and timber output from conifers.


‘Independent' forestry sector.

A typical example of the independence of the independent forestry sector is The Irish Timber Growers Association (ITGA). ITGA was formed in 1977 to support the development and expansion of private sector forestry in Ireland and to represent and inform woodland owners. It is now the recognised national representative body of private woodland owners in Ireland.  But how independent are they?


ITGA receives funding from the Forest Service and its Corporate Sponsors are Coillte and the Irish Forestry Unit Trust (IFUT) And who are IFUT? IFUT was established by AIB Investment Managers, Irish Life and Coillte Teo. to facilitate pension fund and charity investment in forestry.


2. Current problems in Ireland's forestry practices

Concerns are that afforestation with exotic conifers destined for clearfell continues on fragile soils - not only oligotrophic peats are vulnerable. All soils can be damaged with soils on steep hillsides particularly at risk of erosion. Forestry maturing now was often planted for employment reasons in remote uplands and on the headwaters of rivers. This makes the impact of nutrient and sediment releases through clearfell particularly significant problems.


Silvicultural systems

It is evident that sustainable forest management is not solely about species mix.  The silvicultural system used is critical; a plantation of alder destined for clearfell at 30-35 years old is hardly likely to contribute to biodiversity associated with wooded land.  Just as the woodland ecosystem is becoming established its vital component - the trees - are gone.  We need to move from current high impact forest practices to low impact systems such as continuous cover forestry that do not result in nutrient leaching, sedimentation, the widespread use of broad spectrum pesticides or degrade drinking water supplies.


Nutrient losses.

Both clearfell and fertilisation contribute to nutrient leaching.


Irish studies published in 2004 confirmed that forestry clearfelling can have a significant impact on the natural status of water bodies. In one of the surface drains in one of the study sites levels following clearfell phosphates peaked to 59 times the prescribed EPA limit.[15] This must have a significant impact on the affected ecosystem. In addition the water entering the drains and streams will have passed through a significant volume of soil and therefore phosphate is available to flora growing there. According to a letter in Nature,[16] this poses a threat to endangered flora. In order to protect endangered wetland species consideration must be given to their sensitivity to phosphates.[17]


Large-scale field studies also show that forest clearfelling increased nitrate-N losses to streamwaters.


In more peaty soils a significant loss following felling was in gaseous form through the denitrification process (Dutch & Ineson 1990). In contrast to agricultural soils where the product of this process is inert N gas, this study also identified the importance of acid forest soils as sources of nitrous oxide, an important greenhouse gas[18]. This issue has not been addressed in calculations of forestry's role in climate change.  


The short-term release of nitrate that can follow the large-scale harvesting of some forest sites may pose an additional acidification threat within acid-sensitive areas. [19] Reforestation continues on peat soils and in areas where initial afforestation is controlled by the (inadequately mapped) Acid Sensitive Areas Forestry protocol.


60% of the Irish forest estate is on peat soils[20] associated with cold wet conditions. These soils are nutrient poor (oligotrophic) and to achieve a reasonable yield class plantations require repeated applications of fertiliser. Records relating to the fresh water pearl mussel show that one plantation in the Galway mountains has received 1400 kilos of rock phosphate per hectare.[21] Nutrients do not bind strongly to peat soils and readily leach into waters.


In ‘Freshwater Fish Conservation In The Irish Republic: A Review Of Pressures And Legislation Impacting On Conservation Efforts', Mike Fitzsimons and Fran Igoe make clear that ‘the absolute requirement for replanting after harvesting (Forestry Act 1946) needs to be reviewed so that replanting is only allowed where yields are attainable without repeated application of nutrients.'[22]



Clearfell results in the clearance of ground vegetation. Drains and road building cut through surface soils and expose sub-soils. Exposed soils wash away and current buffer zones and silt traps are unable to effectively remove sediments particularly on steep sites during heavy rainfall.


Loss of soil through erosion reduces soil quality and preferentially removes the most valuable components - organic material and fine mineral particles - resulting in reduction of cation exchange, water holding capacities and biological activity.  Where the B or C horizons are exposed the concomitant deterioration of soil structure greatly reduces water infiltration. Rates of erosion with natural vegetation in kg per meter square per year are for natural vegetation 0.01 - 0.05  and for bare soil are 1.0 - 4.50 (Morgan 1986). Soil is categorised as a non-renewable resource.[23]


Water supply

The potential reduction in water yield from conifer forests is likely to be a problem where the supply is being, or is planned to be, fully exploited. This is increasingly the case in many catchments as the demands on water resources continue to grow.


Research suggests there may be a 1.5-2.0% reduction of potential water yield for every 10% of a catchment under mature evergreen forest.[24]  On drier less windy lowlands, studies show that reduction in the limited water yields that characterise these areas as 70% or more. This can have important implications for the quantity and quality of lowland groundwater resources and the maintenance of river flows.[25]


Large-scale planting of short rotation coppice crops of poplar and willow will have the greatest negative impact and therefore should be avoided in sensitive locations.


It is likely that the effect of a well managed forest of mixed ages and species will be much less than that of a uniform mature conifer crop. The lower water-use of broadleaved woodland poses much less of a threat to water resources, and may even enhance supplies in some areas.



A further adverse impact on the environment resulting from the pursuit of the current Irish plantation forestry systems is the application of pesticides.


Pesticides are used widely and inevitably reduce flora and fauna and may pollute groundwater. In current forestry practices the use of broad spectrum pesticides is the norm.  The commonly used broad spectrum pyrethroid insecticides e.g. alpha-cypermethrin are particularly toxic to bees and aquatic organisms. Glyphosate reduces biodiversity including worm populations, which are critical to soil health and humus production. These chemicals are only needed because the silvicultural system requires large clearfell followed by immediate reforestation.


Of current concern is the addition by Coillte Teo of an adhesive, Flexicoat, to the insecticide permethrine. Contrary to what Coillte Teo told the Minister of Agriculture, the combination is not approved for use by the UK Pesticides Authority and the two products must be applied separately by UK nurseries to ensure safety for the operators and the environment. The effect of an adhesive can increase the impact of a pesticide many times. A loophole in the export controls allows Coillte to import into the UK seedlings treated with the combination, undercutting the higher UK costs. Ireland's pesticide control is under the same Minister as forestry - the Minister for Agriculture, and they do not class Flexicoat as a pesticide so it is subject to no restrictions.[26]


Both fertilisers and pesticides are dependant on the oil industry. Their use is ultimately unsustainable.


Certification or Greenwash?

Forest certification has proved the largest obstacle that forestry campaigners have met when lobbying for change. In Ireland Forest Stewardship Council certification is used to excuse bad forest practice both by the Forest Service and the State Forestry Board - Coillte Teoranta.


In a recent forestry protest contractors themselves said that "Seas of mud" are being washed into our rivers. "There is major silt and pollution going in to rivers because proper procedures are not being adhered to."[27] But Coillte was able to defend itself by claiming that "FSC certification means that our forest management meets strict environmental, social and economic criteria".


Ireland's high impact forestry does not comply with FCS standards. FSC have failed to resolve well publicised, substantive complaints.[28] Ireland's FSC process for sustainable forestry has failed. This has happened in a wealthy democratic country with vocal environmentalists. What does FSC certify in under-developed countries? 


Unfortunate it must be concluded that FSC, reputedly the ‘best' certification scheme in the world, has become merely a Greenwash label and its imprimatur can not be used as a benchmark of sustainable forestry. 


3. What Needs to be Done?


The governance of the forestry is currently with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (DAFF). There are difficulties with what is commonly referred to as parallel legislation - e.g. where legislation relating to European legislation (e.g. the Habitats Directive) is affected by national legislation for forestry (the Forestry Acts of 1946 and 1988, specifically) which may predate European legislation or originate from different national authorities. Within the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (DoEHLG) there are a number of areas that need to be addressed:


Nature legislation

(DoEHLG)  is responsible for designations as well as legislation covering SPAs and SACs. There are conflicts between policies originating from the different departments - intensive silvicultural practices v. habitat / species protection and water quality.  There is an opportunity for (DoEHLG) to correct this in a revision of relevant Guidelines and legislation.


Operational responsibility for forestry and decisions lie with DAFF. In practice, this Department has not adequately addressed relevant legislation.


Water pollution

DoEHLG is responsible for the legislation governing water quality including water containing protected species such as the Fresh Water Pearl Mussel and salmon.  This has particular impact on waters designated under the Water Framework Directive. The impact of conifers/land use on the availability of water for public use has not been addressed or incorporated into planning at any level.


Impact assessment

DoEHLG is responsible for the overall framework for assessing plans and projects under the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive 85/337/EEC and the Strategic Environmental Assessment 2001/42/EC.


While the Environmental Impact Assessment threshold has been progressively lowered from 200 hectares to the current 50 hectares, applications are in practice for 49 hectares and the cumulative effect is insufficiently assessed, allowing for major land use change without any assessment or without establishing maximum areas that may be afforested at the catchment level.


Adequate and precautionary management plans for all forestry have been identified as essential by environmental NGOs. These must cover afforestation and reforestation at a catchment level - taking soil type and acid sensitivity into account


As detailed in the introduction to this review, forestry is a plan and an SEA for Ireland's Forestry Plan is required.


Quality before quantity

Ireland is a small island and the 1996 National Plan to plant 20,000 hectares a year to reach ‘critical mass' where a ‘lucrative Irish paper and pulp sector could be competitive in the global market' has failed dramatically. Rather than continuing to promote poor quality fast growing timber such as Sitka spruce, Ireland needs to focus on higher quality timbers, taking climate change forecasts into account in species section and diversification.


Growing for the future.

Current forestry policy must plan for 2050 when harvesting transport costs using current practices are likely to be an extremely limiting factor. It is important to plant for a future local need as much as possible today.  Nicolas Stern warned in his ‘Economics of Climate Change' that decisions made now without adequate consideration of climate change can ‘lock' society into continuing unsustainable actions far into the future.  This is particularly relevant for forestry due to its long term nature.


To apply sustainable forestry there is an urgent need:

  • to assess and propose amendments to:
    • legislation,
    • policies
    • inter-departmental arrangements,
    • management plans
  • to undertake policy engagement with relevant government departments and key stakeholders in the forestry sector including environmental and social NGOs, and community groups, initially through the consultation process required as part of the Strategic Environmental Assessment process.
  • In doing so to look at sustainable; functioning projects in EU countries that utilise forests locally providing resources and employment for local, rural communities while protecting and enhancing our environment.





[2] ‘Ireland's Environment 2008', p. 166, Environmental Protection Agency, 2008

[3] S.I. No. 435 of 2004, 3. (1) (c)



[5] Chairman's Report 2004, p. 3, COFORD


[7] Forestry Schemes manual p19 6.2

[8] See . Accessed 1 June 2008.

[9] FIE clearfell reports:

[10] Forestry Schemes Manual, Plantation Rules.

[11] National Forest Inventory

[12]  Accessed 9.11.08

[13] Coillte Legal Status, Friends of the Irish Environment, November 2008.

[14] . [See the FIE analysis at

[15] Biogeochemical impacts of clearfelling and reforestation on blanket peatland streams [I. phosphorus] T. Cummins, Edward P. Farrell, Forest Ecology and Management.

[16] Endangered plants persist under phosphorus limitation, Martin J. Wassen1*, Harry Olde Venterink2*, Elena D. Lapshina, ? & Franziska Tanneberger, NATURE Vol. 437\22 September 2005

[17] Both in FNN 163:







[24] Sustainable Forestry and the Protection of Water in Great Britain T.R. Nisbet & H McKay, Forestry Commission, Great Britain.


[25] Ibid.

[26]  Minister Brendan Smith to Tony Gregory, TD, Written Parliamentary Question, 10 July, 2008 [28448/08]






FSC Greenwash

Forest certification has proved the largest obstacle that forestry campaigners have met when lobbying for change. FSC certification is used to excuse bad forest practice.

In a recent forestry protest contractors themselves said that "Seas of mud" are being washed into our rivers. "There is major silt and pollution going in to rivers because proper procedures are not being adhered to." But Coillte was able to defend itself by claiming that "FSC certification means that our forest management meets strict environmental, social and economic criteria".

Ireland's high impact forestry does not comply with FCS standards. FSC have failed to resolve well publicised, substantive complaints. Ireland's FSC process for sustainable forestry has failed. This has happened in a wealthy democratic country with vocal environmentalist; what does FSC certify in under-developed countries?

FIE has, after almost ten years work with FSC, now withdrawn it is support. Read more.


Forestry contractors' protest

It's a telling combination when forestry contractors join up with environmentalists to highlight the constant abuse of the Forestry Guidelines. FIE's clearfell studies of 2007 received no publicity and made no impact. When the contractors who had been protesting without success at the National Ploughing Championship contacted FIE, however, it gave both sides credibility for a protest at the November Irish Natural Forestry Foundation conference in Cork.

These contractors tell the tale of sites flooded, rutted roads without protection, and widespread pollution - see their photographs. And they tell us why - the bosses refused to pay for the necessary work and if the contractors do it themselves they are accused of environmental damage.

Read the Irish Examiner's story

The FIE Press Release

The contractor's photographs

FIE Clearfell 2007 photographs


Vanishing species

FIE has prepared maps documenting two of the species most adversely affected by Irish forestry - the fresh water pearl mussel and the Hen harrier. It is now clear that the high quality water required for the fresh water pearl mussel to reproduce is no longer available and the species has become functionally extinct.

With the Hen harrier, not only were the protected areas drastically reduced after farmer pressure, but it is now recognised that contrary to Ireland's claims, second rotation forestry is not used by the hen harrier. Irish conifer plantation forestry results in the net loss of habitat for the Hen harrier
and many other native species.

Fresh water pearl mussel maps

Hen harrier maps


INFF Forestry Conference

The Irish Natural Forestry Foundation's November conference is available online through the Cork Environmental Forum website, a first for Irish NGOs. Subjects include adapting to climate change through agro-forestry. The most relevant to FNN's environmental concerns was 'The ecological effects of forestry practices in spate river catchments of NW Ireland', a catalogue of scientific papers, studies, and photographs detailing the ecological damage of the current forestry practices. Those who doubt FIE's Clearfelling Reports should watch this presentation from Markus Muller Fisheries Information Manager, NW Regional Fisheries Board, Co. Mayo.
This presentation includes the final question and answer session.

INFF, like other initiatives supported by the Forest Service's 'Sustainable Forestry' funding begun in 2005, faces a problematic future because of forestry budgetary cutbacks. INFF's educational programme for schools is a model of how to integrate forestry into the schools' curriculum - including Junior Certificate, Transition Year and Leaving Certificate Geography. It should be replicated across the country, not facing a struggle for survival.

Visit the INFF website


Online tool to save NoI ancient woodlands

The public have been recruited in the battle to save Northern Ireland's oldest trees. Just 0.08% of Northern Ireland's land mass is covered by ancient woodland. And since the 1960s, 273 of Northern Ireland's ancient woodland have been cleared for agriculture and development. Now the Woodland Trust is calling on people to use the planning system to fight back when ancient woodland in their area comes under threat, using a new online tool called WoodWatch.


Experts debate role of forests in climate policy

European policymakers, industry and NGOs discussed the role of forests as carbon sinks and a source of product materials and renewable energy at a two-day conference in Nancy, France, at the end of last week. At the event, supported by the French EU presidency and European commission, experts called for more scientific research, especially to better understand regional differences, and further discussions to ensure the forestry sector plays a key role in shaping a post-2012 climate. See IISD coverage .
ENDS Europe DAILY 10.11.08


The legal status of Coillte Teo.

Coillte Teo claims to be a private company but it has been twice ruled to be a public authority by the EU Court of Justice and agreed to act as such in relation to Access to Information on the Environment in a binding 2005 High Court Order - reinforced by a stinging indictment by the Information Commissioner in 2006.

As the second EU Judgment said, 'Neither the company's obligation to manage its affairs on a commercial basis nor the fact, alleged by Ireland, that the State does not, in practice, intervene in the company's management can prevail over the finding that the company is wholly owned and controlled by the State and that the State could therefore intervene.'


The unauthorised 8 million Coillte grant

From 1993 - 1998 Coillte Teo claimed 'premia' grants for planting trees when these grants were intended only for farmers. They then used the proceeds to finance the purchase of 60,000 hectares, borrowing £50.9 which was to be serviced from the premiums receivable into the future. After a long campaign with denials from both the Irish Agriculture Minister and European Commission, in 2001 the Raport Final of the European Commissions Organ de Concilliation who clear all agricultural grant payments ruled that Coillte was a public authority and as such did not qualify for the grants. Ireland and Coillte both challenged the decision to the European Court of Justice and both lost.

FIE has had Parliamentary Questions tabled for more than 7 years about the return of the funds clawed back by the Commission from Ireland by Coillte Teo to the exchequer with no result. Mary Coughlan's recent reply continues the Government's position that it is 'considering' the issue. If Coillte is not required to return these funds, the funds become state aid and subject to proceedings under the competition law.


Coillte exploits pesticides export loophole

UK nurseries have suffered from Coillte's undercutting of their market by dumping left over plants from the failed Irish forestry program on the UK market for some time, especially as they take up the quota allocate by the UK Forestry Commission to the 'private' sector. Now they are particularly bitter about Coillte's import into the UK of seedlings which have been impregnated with flexcoat and insecticides together.

A plant polysaccharide (Flexcoat) with adhesive properties is added to the insecticide Cypermethrin to bind it effectively to the seedlings. The polysaccharide greatly increases the impact of the insecticide. In the Minister's first reply to Tony Gregory's Parliamentary Question, he said the company 'advises that it has received clearance for this from the Pesticide Safety Directorate (PSD) in the UK'.

When Gregory followed up for FIE with a letter from the UK PSD saying they had not authorized Flexicoat and Cypermethrin applied together, the Minister said they were 'not in breach of any United Kingdom Pesticide Safety Directorate (PSD) standards or guidelines relating to the export of cypermethrin-flexcoat treated trees into the UK market.'

UK companies must apply the insecticide and the adhesive polsacchairide seperatly, resulting in a higher cost. A loophole - which Coillte is exploiting without concern for the potential impact on handlers in Ireland and the UK or on the environment - permits import of plants into the UK that have been treated without UK PSD approval.
Read the PQs.



Crann goes under

This year's core environmental funding for NGOs - sourced from the plastic bag levy - included an extra €5000 for Crann, self-styled 'Ireland's leading tree organisation', to 'merge' with one of Ireland's other forestry or larger environmental organizations. The €5000 was intended for 'rebranding or similar costs'.

Crann was launched on World Environment Day, June 5, 1986. The CRANN magazine is - again in their own words - 'Ireland's leading tree magazine bringing all aspects of tree culture to a growing audience'. The motivation behind the organization was to 'put broadleaved trees back on the agenda so that Ireland could at some stage in the future become self sufficient in all of its timber needs'.

Jan Alexander, the organization's founder, served on the first Board of Coillte Teo. and the organization's close alliance with Coillte and the Forest Service limited its ability to achieve its aims.

From 1990-93 Crann, with assistance from the Forest Service, ran a pilot project in the South Leitrim area. Land owners and small farmers who were interested planted up areas of their land using species which they themselves were interested in growing for a variety of uses. Hopefully some of the funds made available can be used to assess that project after almost 20 years - and highlight the lessons.

Crann website


2008 Appeal

Long standing readers will know that once a year we ask our readers to make a contribution to support this service. We need your contributions because FIE is a network of environmentalists - not a membership organisation which can rely on annual subscriptions. We also need to be assured that our readers actually want this service, as FIE has many demands on its limited resources. The most critical factor for the continuation of FNN is reader's support.

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Please contact us if you have any questions or problems - and - thank you.

The Editors


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