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Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board [AP2/12/2015]

Oral Hearing Shot Head licence Marine Harvest Ireland [TO5/555]

14 February 2017

 

Presentation by Friends of the Irish Environment

 

We make this presentation under protest on the grounds outlined by Save Bantry Bay and An Taisce – mainly but not limited to the failure of the 1997 Aquaculture legislation to incorporate changes in the law relating to participation and to the appropriate assessment of environmental impact. We reserve our tight to challenge this Board’s procedures.

 

 

We are here to ‘seek to establish clarity’ on three specific points of environmental impact which have been considered by the Licencing Authority and found acceptable. This is an appeal against that decision because no clarity can be provided through the current licencing system.

  

The Department of Maine's Engineering Division (which inspects production facilities and recommends actions to ensure licence compliance), the Department's aquaculture and foreshore management division (which issues and enforces licences), the Marine Institute (which provides research and analysis), and the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (which addresses the contamination of the final product) - all  feed into the licensing process.

 

The scientific work of The Marine Institute and the SFPA underpins Department policies on sea fisheries and aquaculture. It must be strictly evidence-based.

 

Their work includes:

*            scientific assessment of salmon farm licences,

*            regulation of fish movements by aquaculture operators,

*            operation of the State's sea lice monitoring programme,

*            responsibilities under the Residues Directive for food safety

*            categorisation of suitable waters for certain aquaculture activities.

 

But their operations are each controlled by the Marine side of the Department, dependent on them for staffing and resources. Placing the governance and resourcing of these agencies under the control of the Department's Marine side with its aquaculture development priorities, rather than one of the many non-fisheries Divisions, undermines the independence of the advisory and regulatory duties of these agencies and the intention of the Oireachtas in establishing these bodies as independent agencies. The conflict of interest exists, a priori. The necessary and appropriate checks and balances incumbent on the Department in the exercise of its functions is impossible.

 

It is not a question of the scientific and technical competence of the agencies involved but rather who controls them. The current governance perpetuates a real and perceived conflict of interest and an inadequate separation of functions within the Department.

 

For example, we have examined the Marine Fish Farm Inspection Reports which confirm overstocking at Marine Harvests sites in the south west continue unabated from at least 2012 to date, in spite of the Marine Engineering Division’s explicitly annual inspections and reports requesting support in enforcing this and many other breached licencing conditions. In response to this major non-conformity to the Aquaculture Stewardship Council standards the company made no apology to the certifying body or commitment to meet the stocking requirements, simply stating ‘the current limit of 500 tons per annum would require harvest at 1.25 kg which is not a saleable size.’

Publicly, the Department has misled the Oireachtas, with the Minister for Agriculture informing Deputy Daly in a written Parliamentary reply on June 15, 2015 that ‘My Department has identified the issue of possible overstocking, although not widespread, as a key operational priority over the next twelve months for the Monitoring and Compliance Unit of my Department’s Aquaculture Licensing Division.’

 

In fact exactly twelve months later the Department’s Aquaculture Licensing Division recommended that Marine Harvest’s Lough Alton smoult hatchery have its licence rescinded for overstocking on the basis of Marine Engineering Division Fin Fish Inspection Reports. The company freely admitted the overstocking to the Department, citing ‘legitimate and thoroughly justifiable business reason’. Lough Alton supplies 70% of Marine Harvest’s smoults for all its production sites in Ireland and limiting production to the licenced amount here would curtail overstocking at all their sites.

 

In spite of being advised that Lough Alton was ‘an important case with potentially significant implications for the company and also for the Department’s licensing regime’, the Assistant Secretary General advised against the recommendations to rescind the licence for over-stocking, advising that such a Ministerial decision would have a ‘disproportionate’ commercial impact.

 

The Secretary General, upon asking if there was an assessment of the impact of the overstocking on the environment, was told by the Assistant Secretary General that not only was there ‘no assessment of the impact on the environment’, but that the Department was ‘not sure we are equipped to carry out such an assessment’.

 

In fact the extensive and thoroughly researched  Report submitted to the Assistant Secretary General by the Aquaculture and Foreshore Division recorded that Donegal County Council informed the Department that Lough Alton site has been ‘been consistently [emphasis in original] In breach of their [discharge] licence conditions’ and ‘persistent’ requests for an action plan to address the breaches had been met with a refusal by the company who ‘cited economic reasons for not implementing the of treatment facilities which their current production rates would demand in order to achieve compliance’.

 

Compliance with Condition 1 of the Department’s Aquaculture Licence required compliance to Donegal County Council’s Discharge Licence.

 

The Assistant Secretary had in front of him emails from the Executive Scientist at Donegal Council’s Central Laboratories’ who actually pleaded to the Department on 4 May, 2016:

 

‘If there is any mechanism within your aquaculture licence to limit production capacity, which will positively act on compliance, we would welcome such a development.’

 

The Assistant Secretary was also silent about Marine Harvest’s  statement to Donegal County Council that there were ‘economic reasons’ for the company’s non-compliance.’

 

Last week the same Assistant Secretary General appeared before the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture. Deputy Thomas Pringle expressed these concerns about a conflict of interest in the licencing system on our behalf. Dismissing these concerns, inter allia citing other Departments with similar ‘host’ duties, the Assistant Secretary General concluded that ‘The regulatory and development are not separate arms…’ ‘They are heavily interlinked and we do not see them as two completely separate issues.’

 

That is the problem.

 

This Appeals Board cannot rely on a licensing system in performing its statutory duty when the evident conflict of interest leads to an authority amending licences without assessment  even when faced with stark evidence of existing discharge exceedances provided to them by another statutory body with licencing authority for the same operation.

 

Nor is an applicant who openly informs a licencing authority that he has no intention of meeting his licencing conditions a fit person to hold a licence.

 

We would respectfully point out that ALAB is constricted under the legislation only to licence aquaculture ‘if satisfied that it is in the public interest to do so’. We would urge the Board to consider the evidence we have outlined today and uphold this appeal in the public interest.

 

 

 ENDS

The Planning Authority,

Kildare County Council,

Naas, County Kildare,

1 February 2017

 

 

Re: 161320

Applicant: Bord na Mona

Proposal: 3,380m2 horticultural facility and ancillary structures

 

Dear Sir or Madam;

 

We refer to the application form by the developer and note that they state that no Environmental Impact Statement is required’. [Page 6]

 

We note the decision of An Bord Pleanala upheld by the High Court in relation to Edenderry Power Plant whereby the source of the fuel was required to be considered as part of the application for the continuation of the plant [PL 19.245295].

 

Notwithstanding this judgment against the current applicant, the Environmental Impact Assessment Report is concerned only with the processing facility and offers no assessment of the extraction of peat necessary for this planning application although it is admitted in the ‘Characteristics of the proposed development’ (Appendix E, 3.2) that the material for the proposal will be sourced from ‘Moulds Bog/Bog of Allen’.

 

This EIA Report states that the materials would be extracted in the absence of the proposed development. ‘Market demand is the driver for the extraction of these materials, not the proposed development.’ It is difficult to see that the extraction on the scale proposed would happen if this facility was not constructed.


 

However, the question; ‘Would any contribution of the above factors be considered likely to have significant effects on the environment?’ meets the reply ‘It is not considered that the combination of the above factors could result in significant effects on the environment.’

 

Similarly, the claim that the peat would be extracted anyway is advanced again under Appropriate Assessment, which confirm the extraction of 215,000m3 per year from a resource of 6,612,327.6m3.

 

Further, the Summary of Potential Environmental Impacts of the Development of a Horticultural processing facility Allen Bog in the Screening for Appropriate Assessment [3.3.3]. does not address the impact of the extraction of peat and its conclusion considers only the impact of the construction of the processing facility.

 

Bord na Mona prepared and submitted an EIS and AA in relation to the extraction of peat for the Edenderry power plant in June 2016, a ’fall back’ application in view of the likelihood of the High Court striking down the original application that contained no such assessments. This duly took place.

 

We would suggest to the Planning authority that in view of the planning history of the Edenderry Power Plant, the Local Authority has no choice but to refuse this application until the extraction of the peat required to supply this facility is addressed.

 

We attach the €20 participation fee.

 

Yours, etc.,

  

 

Tony Lowes

 Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs

Thursday, 10th November, 2016 &  Tuesday 15th November, 2016.

and

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Tuesday 15th November, 2016.

 

 NO.   216, 217, 218, 219 & 220

  
  
 

To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the action that was taken in response to the report prepared by the National Parks and Wildlife Service on 2 December 2015 in response to parliamentary question number 634 of 1 December 2016 which reported that, under a licence granted for thinning for firewood (details suppled), up to 30 oak trees between 60 to 80 years old, with the occasional older tree had been felled in spite of a detailed condition in this licence requiring the retention of these specific oak trees.. 

- Clare Daly. 
 

* For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 10th November, 2016. 
  
[GFL 16107] 
  
Ref No: 34351/16 
 

 

To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if she had informed the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine's Forest Service of parliamentary question number 634 of 1 December 2016 regarding felling in an ancient woodland (details supplied) in County Longford and the report provided to her NPWS confirming the felling of mature oak trees specifically protected in the licence to determine if a licence had been issued and to coordinate a response with the authority responsible for licensing the felling of trees. 

- Clare Daly. 
 

* For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 10th November, 2016. 
  
[Castleforbes Estate] 
  
Ref No: 34352/16 
  
To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the action she will take over the felling of the oak trees specifically prohibited under licence (details supplied), in view of the fact that the same operators are continuing to operate under two current licences for operations in this woodland. 

- Clare Daly. 
 

* For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 10th November, 2016. 
  
[GFL 161097] [GFL 178854 & GFL 18440] 
  
Ref No: 34353/16 
  
To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason after requiring a condition that no felling would take place during the restricted bird nesting season from March to September in the first licence issued for forestry operations in a heritage woodland (details supplied) in County Longford, a subsequent licence was never provided to the ranger for comment and was returned to the Forest Service without any recommendation.. 

- Clare Daly.  

*    For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 10th November, 2016. 
[GFL 16107] [GFL 178854] 
Ref No:   34354/16 
To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the details of any meetings she has held with the owner of a heritage woodland (details supplied) in County Longford; and the actions that were taken because of such meetings. 

- Clare Daly.  

*    For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 10th November, 2016. 
Lady Georgina Forbes, Castleforbes 
Ref No:   34355/16 
 

R E P L Y 

  
 

Minister for the Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Heather Humphreys, T.D.): 

 




I propose to take Questions Nos 216, 217, 218, 219 and 220 together. 
I am advised that the forestry activities referred to by the Deputy have been carried out under license from the Forest Service, which comes under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. While my Department was consulted by the Forest Service as the woodland concerned is situated adjacent to, and partially within, a Special Area of Conservation, it is a matter for the Forest Service to determine if there were any breaches of licence conditions and, if so, whether any action needs to be taken in relation to such breaches under the provisions of the Forestry Acts. 
Consultation by the Forest Service with my Department’s National Parks and Wildlife Service in connection with tree felling applications may be considered at various levels within the regional management structure but no inference should be drawn by an absence of specific comment, as the responsibility lies with the Forest Service to make its own decision. 
There has been no meeting between officials of my Department and the owner of the woodland concerned.

 

To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs further to parliamentary question number 634 of 1 December 2015 and the reply to the question (details supplied), if she received the report; if so, when she will publish it; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

- Clare Daly.

*    For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 15th November, 2016.

My Department is investigating this matter and I will write to the Deputy when I have received a report

Ref No:   34483/16

R E P L Y



Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Ms. Heather Humphreys, T.D.):

 



Officials of my Department visited the site in question and met with relevant individuals late last year and subsequently reported on the matter. Targeted tree planning has been carried out at the site - originally a plantation which had become neglected over the past 25 years - as part of a ten year management plan for the woodland to encourage natural regeneration.  The activities undertaken were carried out under license from the Forest Service and the works have been assessed and approved by my Department. The felling included a thinning out process to encourage continuous woodland cover and natural regeneration.

Large numbers of invasive species such as Rhododendron, Sycamore and Laurel had become well established within the woodland. These species were rampant in the areas selected for thinning.

As part of the conditions agreed to secure the thinning license for the woods, the entity involved agreed to carry out the removal of all invasive species from the selected area. In addition, standing dead wood and veteran trees were selected for retention for conservation purposes.

From the selected thinning, some Oak were removed, as were all Sycamore, most Beech, some Ash, all Rhododendron and all Laurel, as well as Willow from dry areas only, with wet Willow being left in situ. Most Oak trees selected were between 60-80 years old, with the occasional older tree. Contrary to some reports, I am advised that there were no 400 year old Oak trees on the site.

Trees were removed to allow natural regeneration of the Oak woodland, to promote continuous woodland cover and to help in the conservation of this important site. The removal of the alien species and the thinning of the woodland assist in this management by allowing the light to reach the forest floor, encouraging the natural regrowth of the woodland. This had not happened over the last 25 years, so no natural regeneration had occurred.

Expert personnel from my Department have met the personnel involved to walk the site and assess the works carried out to date. My Department remains satisfied that the work was carried out in accordance to the conditions set out in the thinning/felling license. A further assessment was made recently to ensure that completion of the licensed works would be beneficial to the long-term recovery of the woodland.

 

 

QUESTION NOS:  635,636,637,638

DÁIL QUESTIONS addressed to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed)
by Deputy Clare Daly,Clare Daly,Clare Daly,Clare Daly
for WRITTEN ANSWER on 15/11/2016  


 
 
* To ask the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine if his attention has been drawn to the felling of up to 30 mature oak trees in 2015 in a heritage woodland which had been specifically detailed for protection in a licence (details supplied) issued by forest service.

- Clare Daly T.D.


For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 15 November, 2016.

* To ask the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine if his attention has been drawn to the felling of a 100 year old sequoia tree this spring in a heritage woodland in County Longford when the forest service had been assured by the licenced operator (details supplied) that no sequoia trees would be felled.

- Clare Daly T.D.


For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 15 November, 2016.

* To ask the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine the reason a felling licence for an ancient broadleaf woodland was issued without the standard consultation with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (details supplied) when two other licences in this location were so referred.; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

- Clare Daly T.D.


For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 15 November, 2016.

* To ask the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine the reason as a result of complaints received, felling was suspended in an ancient woodland in County Longford on 24 March 2016, permitted to continue on 12 April 2016, and then halted again on 12 May 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

- Clare Daly T.D.


For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 15 November, 2016.

  
REPLY.
Between 17th April 2014 and 23rd September 2015, three felling licence applications were submitted to my Department and approved in respect of the lands in question. These were as follows:

The first licence was for the thinning of 27.76 hectares and clearfell of a further 7.43ha

The second was  for the thinning of 66.32 hectares

The third licence was for the thinning of 14.34 hectares

The applications were processed by the administrative and inspectorate staff  in my Department.  In relation to the first two licaneces, as the area proposed for felling intersected with a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Area (SPA), the views of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) were sought.

The area covered by the third licence lies outside of the SAC and SPA and involved thinning.  In these situations, referral to NPWS is at the discretion of the Forest Service, and it was deemed unnecessary in this case.

In March 2016, concerns about the felling were raised with the Department and at the request of the Forest Service operations ceased on site for the areas relating to the second and third licence.  At that time, felling within the first licence area had been completed.  Following discussions with the contractor and further site assessments by the Forest Service, NPWS and an ornithologist engaged by the operator, the Forest Service was satisfied that the operations were appropriate and that the licenses issued were in keeping with agreed procedures.  The request to cease operations was lifted on 12th April, conditional upon stated requirements.  A speedy resumption and completion of the felling work was sought in order to have the work completed before possible nesting began.  On 11th May, work on the site ceased and was scheduled to resume at the end of the Summer.

A basis for lifting the request to cease operations on the 12th April was the commitment of the contractor to retain sequoia onsite within the area of the second licence (unless overriding health and safety concerns arose).  There was no condition on the original general felling licence that required the retention of that specific species.

In recent days, the Department received a report that sequoia trees had been felled on site. The Forest Service inspected the site on the 9th November and noted that three sequoia stumps were observed in one of the two areas within which these trees are present, as previously indicated by the contractor.  In the opinion of the Forest Service Inspector the three sequoia appeared to have been felled in spring or very early summer and it appeared that the felled sequoia were quite likely to have been dominated by larger sequoias, as there continues to be a closed canopy following the removal of the trees.  Following this inspection, the contractor was contacted and he explained that three small sequoias were felled for the following reasons;

  • They were suppressed by the dominant sequoia overhead and therefore had little or no living crown remaining;
  • They were either dead or dying;
  • They represented a health and safety risk.

 


The Forest Service has not received any complaint regarding the felling of oak on this site.  Any information regarding possible illegal felling should be forwarded to the Felling Licence Section, Johnstown Castle Estate, Wexford.

 

_________________________________

 

Editors Note: The files released to FIE not only contain a commitment from the contractor on 1 April 2016 to retain all the sequoias, which commitment was given to us on the same day, but also an agreement by Scottish Woodland on 4 April to notify the Forest Service should there arise a need to fell one of the trees for health and safety reasons. No such request was ever made. The size and health of trees can be seen in the photographs provided to the Forest Service. 

http://www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/images/Castleforbes/castleforbes_sequoia.pdf

 The statement that 'The Forest Service has not received any complaint regarding the felling of oak on this site' is not true. FIE detailed these fellings and quoted from the NPWS Report prepared for the written Parliamentary Question confirming the felling on 16 May, 2016.

 

AIL QUESTION 

  
  NO.   216, 217, 218, 219 & 220
  
  
 

To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the action that was taken in response to the report prepared by the National Parks and Wildlife Service on 2 December 2015 in response to parliamentary question number 634 of 1 December 2016 which reported that, under a licence granted for thinning for firewood (details suppled), up to 30 oak trees between 60 to 80 years old, with the occasional older tree had been felled in spite of a detailed condition in this licence requiring the retention of these specific oak trees.. 

- Clare Daly. 
 

* For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 10th November, 2016. 
  
[GFL 16107] 
  
Ref No: 34351/16 
 

 

To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if she had informed the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine's Forest Service of parliamentary question number 634 of 1 December 2016 regarding felling in an ancient woodland (details supplied) in County Longford and the report provided to her NPWS confirming the felling of mature oak trees specifically protected in the licence to determine if a licence had been issued and to coordinate a response with the authority responsible for licensing the felling of trees. 

- Clare Daly. 
 

* For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 10th November, 2016. 
  
[Castleforbes Estate] 
  
Ref No: 34352/16 
  
To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the action she will take over the felling of the oak trees specifically prohibited under licence (details supplied), in view of the fact that the same operators are continuing to operate under two current licences for operations in this woodland. 

- Clare Daly. 
 

* For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 10th November, 2016. 
  
[GFL 161097] [GFL 178854 & GFL 18440] 
  
Ref No: 34353/16 
  
To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason after requiring a condition that no felling would take place during the restricted bird nesting season from March to September in the first licence issued for forestry operations in a heritage woodland (details supplied) in County Longford, a subsequent licence was never provided to the ranger for comment and was returned to the Forest Service without any recommendation.. 

- Clare Daly.  

*    For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 10th November, 2016. 
[GFL 16107] [GFL 178854] 
Ref No:   34354/16 
To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the details of any meetings she has held with the owner of a heritage woodland (details supplied) in County Longford; and the actions that were taken because of such meetings. 

- Clare Daly.  

*    For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 10th November, 2016. 
Lady Georgina Forbes, Castleforbes 
Ref No:   34355/16 
 

R E P L Y 

  
 

Minister for the Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Heather Humphreys, T.D.): 




I propose to take Questions Nos 216, 217, 218, 219 and 220 together. 
I am advised that the forestry activities referred to by the Deputy have been carried out under license from the Forest Service, which comes under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. While my Department was consulted by the Forest Service as the woodland concerned is situated adjacent to, and partially within, a Special Area of Conservation, it is a matter for the Forest Service to determine if there were any breaches of licence conditions and, if so, whether any action needs to be taken in relation to such breaches under the provisions of the Forestry Acts. 
Consultation by the Forest Service with my Department’s National Parks and Wildlife Service in connection with tree felling applications may be considered at various levels within the regional management structure but no inference should be drawn by an absence of specific comment, as the responsibility lies with the Forest Service to make its own decision. 
There has been no meeting between officials of my Department and the owner of the woodland concerned.

 

 

Minister for Agriculture

If the Minister was aware of the felling of up to 30 mature oak trees in 2015 in a heritage woodland which had been specifically detailed for protection in the licence [GFL 16107] issued by his Forest Service?

 

If the Minister was aware of the felling of a 100 year old sequoia tree this spring in a heritage woodland in County Longford when his Forest Service  had been assured by the licenced operator [Scottish Woodlands] that no sequoia trees would be felled?

 

If the Minister could explain why a felling licence for an ancient broadleaf woodland was issued without the standard consultation with the National Parks and Wildlife Service [GFL 18440] when two other licences in this location [GFL 16107 & GFL 178854] were so referred?

 

If the Minister can explain why as a result of complaints received felling was suspended in an ancient woodland in County Longford on24 March of this year, permitted to continue on 12 April, and then halted again on 12 May 2016?

 

QUESTION NOS:  635,636,637,638

DÁIL QUESTIONS addressed to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed)
by Deputy Clare Daly,Clare Daly,Clare Daly,Clare Daly
for WRITTEN ANSWER on 15/11/2016  


 
 
* To ask the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine if his attention has been drawn to the felling of up to 30 mature oak trees in 2015 in a heritage woodland which had been specifically detailed for protection in a licence (details supplied) issued by forest service.

- Clare Daly T.D.


For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 15 November, 2016.

* To ask the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine if his attention has been drawn to the felling of a 100 year old sequoia tree this spring in a heritage woodland in County Longford when the forest service had been assured by the licenced operator (details supplied) that no sequoia trees would be felled.

- Clare Daly T.D.


For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 15 November, 2016.

* To ask the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine the reason a felling licence for an ancient broadleaf woodland was issued without the standard consultation with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (details supplied) when two other licences in this location were so referred.; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

- Clare Daly T.D.


For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 15 November, 2016.

* To ask the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine the reason as a result of complaints received, felling was suspended in an ancient woodland in County Longford on 24 March 2016, permitted to continue on 12 April 2016, and then halted again on 12 May 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

- Clare Daly T.D.


For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 15 November, 2016.

  
REPLY.
Between 17th April 2014 and 23rd September 2015, three felling licence applications were submitted to my Department and approved in respect of the lands in question. These were as follows:

The first licence was for the thinning of 27.76 hectares and clearfell of a further 7.43ha

The second was  for the thinning of 66.32 hectares

The third licence was for the thinning of 14.34 hectares

The applications were processed by the administrative and inspectorate staff  in my Department.  In relation to the first two licaneces, as the area proposed for felling intersected with a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Area (SPA), the views of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) were sought.

The area covered by the third licence lies outside of the SAC and SPA and involved thinning.  In these situations, referral to NPWS is at the discretion of the Forest Service, and it was deemed unnecessary in this case.

In March 2016, concerns about the felling were raised with the Department and at the request of the Forest Service operations ceased on site for the areas relating to the second and third licence.  At that time, felling within the first licence area had been completed.  Following discussions with the contractor and further site assessments by the Forest Service, NPWS and an ornithologist engaged by the operator, the Forest Service was satisfied that the operations were appropriate and that the licenses issued were in keeping with agreed procedures.  The request to cease operations was lifted on 12th April, conditional upon stated requirements.  A speedy resumption and completion of the felling work was sought in order to have the work completed before possible nesting began.  On 11th May, work on the site ceased and was scheduled to resume at the end of the Summer.

A basis for lifting the request to cease operations on the 12th April was the commitment of the contractor to retain sequoia onsite within the area of the second licence (unless overriding health and safety concerns arose).  There was no condition on the original general felling licence that required the retention of that specific species.

In recent days, the Department received a report that sequoia trees had been felled on site. The Forest Service inspected the site on the 9th November and noted that three sequoia stumps were observed in one of the two areas within which these trees are present, as previously indicated by the contractor.  In the opinion of the Forest Service Inspector the three sequoia appeared to have been felled in spring or very early summer and it appeared that the felled sequoia were quite likely to have been dominated by larger sequoias, as there continues to be a closed canopy following the removal of the trees.  Following this inspection, the contractor was contacted and he explained that three small sequoias were felled for the following reasons;

  • They were suppressed by the dominant sequoia overhead and therefore had little or no living crown remaining;
  • They were either dead or dying;
  • They represented a health and safety risk.


The Forest Service has not received any complaint regarding the felling of oak on this site.  Any information regarding possible illegal felling should be forwarded to the Felling Licence Section, Johnstown Castle Estate, Wexford.

 

 

 

 

QUESTION NO:  219

DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed)
by Deputy Clare Daly
for WRITTEN ANSWER on 24/11/2016  


 
 To ask the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine further to parliamentary question number 636 of 15 November 2016, if he will clarify the records over reports of the felling of sequoias in an ancient woodland in County Longford (details supplied); and the steps he will take to ensure that the contractor and other contractors cannot ignore commitments made to the Forest Service. (Details Supplied) as the files show that he omitted part of the written ‘basis for lifting the request to cease operations on the 12th April’, failing to fully quote the grounds for felling the sequoias in question which he gave as ‘(unless overriding health and safety concerns arose)’ which in his Service’s letter to the contractor reads ‘(unless overriding Health and Safety concerns arise, in which case contract the Forest Service)’, and that no such contact was made, as he confirms by saying his Forest Service was unaware of any felling of sequoias until it received a report ‘in recent days’;
  
REPLY.


Following concerns raised in March 2016, the Department requested that operations would cease onsite, pending investigation. Operations subsequently recommenced based on an e-mail from the Department to the Contractor on 12th April 2016. This included an instruction regarding the retention of sequoia onsite, unless overriding health and safety concerns arose, in which case, the Department was to be contacted. 

The Department was not subsequently contacted by the Contractor regarding the felling of sequoia trees.

A report from the Friends of the Irish Environment, dated 9th November 2016, was received by the Department, stating that sequoia were felled on 13th May 2016. An inspection by the Department on the 9th November 2016 found the stumps of three sequoia trees, which appeared to have been felled in spring or very early summer. 

Following contact from the Department, the Contractor stated  that these three sequoia were felled for the following reasons: 

  • they were suppressed by the dominant sequoia overhead and therefore had little or no living crown remaining;
  • they were either dead or dying;     
  • they represented a health and safety risk.


The instruction regarding the retention of sequoia does not form part of the conditions of any of the issued felling licences. However, the matter concerning the breach of this instruction is being raised with the Contractor. 

QUESTION NO:  220

DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed)
by Deputy Clare Daly
for WRITTEN ANSWER on 24/11/2016  


 
 To ask the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine further to parliamentary question number 636 of 15 November 2016, if he will clarify his reply, on which he based his statement that the Forest Service has not received any complaint regarding the felling of oak on this site (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Details Supplied) as he was informed of the felling by an environmental organisation (Friends of the Irish Environment) on 16th May, 2016, his Private Secretary acknowledging this report on the 18th of May [Ref:2016/55571P], stating that he had forwarded the report ‘for the attention of the relevant Department officials’; providing documentation detailing the felling of approximately 30 oaks of between 60 and 80 years old of veneer quality timber, trees that had been specifically identified for protection under the Instructions issued with the licence [GFL16107] but which were felled in September 2014 in spite of the Instructions stating that ‘mature specimens of oak were to be found along the perimeters of these plots and therefore ‘to leave all Oak Holly and Roan standing’, and the contractor’s written statement [NPWS to Scottish Woodlands 11 December 2014] that the ‘resultant timber would be extracted by forwarded to the roadside where it would be sold as firewood’ these trees were felled and shipped to specialist hardwood sawmill [photograph of stacked oak labelled with sawmill destination ‘Clonmore’ provided]
  
REPLY.


I received a letter from Friends of the Irish Environment on 16th May 2016.  This letter was brought to the attention of the relevant Department officials and I issued a reply to this letter on 18 May 2016.  I can confirm that at the time the Department staff did not view this letter as a report of Alleged Illegal Felling.  This matter, of oak trees felled, is now being investigated.  

 

 

A pre slaughter chemical residue test on a Marine Harvests’ ‘organic’ salmon showed traces of 10 chemicals. None of them are listed in the State’s annual Report of chemical residues published by the Marine Institute – part of the Department of Agriculture which supports an massive expansion of this industry - as they are below the ‘minimum residue level'. The chemicals including dyes which are illegal, artificial preservatives which are not permitted in organic production, anti-parasite drugs which have been shown to cause mutation world wide in just 11 years in the targeted lice, and anti-biotics which the World Health Organisation is seeking to have banned from agriculture to preserve their effectiveness in human diseases. The presence of the chemicals are hotly denied by the company and the IFA.  READ THE ARTICLE in the current Village Magazine.