Some of the crowd at last Friday's meeting. Photo by Brian Farrell
At a jammed packed Forestry Conference hosted by the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) in Carrick-on-Shannon last Friday night, the resounding call from the people of Co Leitrim and West Cavan was for an Action Plan to be put in place to save their farmland, their traditional farming practices, their towns, villages and local communities.
On the night the INHFA gave a presentation based on factual data collected from various sources including Ireland's Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine annual forestry statistics.
INHFA also presented a slide show of what was termed the "startling malpractice by those engaged in the forestry business with devastating destruction of the natural environment".
A spokesperson said "examples showing high concentrations of afforestation in areas rich in natural biodiversity have serious direct, indirect and cumulative negative impacts including Habitat Loss, Water Pollution and fragmentation of flora and fauna, local communities and established local farming practices".
INHFA forestry spokesperson, Gerry Loftus ,stated after the meeting "we must all listen to the people who have spoken here tonight. They have called for a plan of action, a plan of action to save their counties, their farm families, local communities, towns and villages".
In his closing speech at the conference Loftus pledged the commitment of the INHFA to work alongside the people of Leitrim and West Cavan and that the Association would by taking a certain course of action. He listed the following actions:
- A meeting with Minister for Forestry, Mr. Andrew Doyle TD
- A private members bill in the Oireachtas to amend forestry planning regulations
- A ban on clear felling
- Compulsory vaccination and micro chipping of badgers that become displaced during current clear felling practices
- Grant aid for Deer proof fencing.
- Higher grant aid for farmer owned plantations.
- Proper 20m fire belts surrounding plantations.
- Oireachtas to bring forward legislation to make agricultural land a special asset of the state, thus controlling the amount of land that could be planted in any one county.
- An end to monoculture plantations (all Sitka spruce)
- That Ireland must reach its 30% broadleaf commitments.
Agroforestry to be considered by intensive farmers to mitigate the greenhouse gases produced on their farms.
Concluding the INHFA spokesperson reiterated his opening statement "if the Government have to meet carbon emissions targets then we all have a problem, we must all be part of the solution. Don't ignore us, come talk to us and don’t sacrifice this rural community".