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 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.

 

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