We are deeply saddened by the passing of our friend and colleague Andrew St Ledger. Andrew was an active member of our network and a passionate advocate for native woodland and the wider environment.
His energy, enthusiasm, passion and knowledge about our native forests and his willingness to share that knowledge were legendary in the environmental movement and elsewhere.
He was committed to restoring Ireland’s native forests. Andrew was co-founder of The Irish Woodland League, an NGO dedicated to restoring the relationship between people and their native woodlands in Ireland. He was a native woodland specialist for guided walks and talks, workshops and presentations and creator/author of “Know Your Native Trees” education modules.
Andrew was actively restoring native forest on his own land in east Clare since 2007 as part of “The Great Forest of Aughty” Native-Forest Restoration plan which he envisioned. He also created The Woodland League “Forest in a Box” native trees for national schools project.
He promoted the potential societal benefits of a return to the wise use and management of the Irish forests for the long term benefits of Irish communities, and advocated for reform of the outdated State forest policy.
As a member of the team at CELT (Centre for Environmental Living and Training), Andrew was biodiversity officer and basic woodland skills course designer, as well as representing CELT in the Environmental Pillar.
In his advocacy role, Andrew focused on forestry issues and creating agreed forestry policy. As part of the Environmental Pillar Steering Committee, he met with ministers and civil servants to change forest and agriculture policy. In October 2018, he drafted the Environmental Pillar forestry submission to the Joint Oireachtas Climate Committee and presented on it, leading to most of the forestry points being adopted in the committee final report recommendations to Government for the National Climate Action Plan.
His forestry advocacy work was not just confined to Ireland. He was recognised by Yale School of Forestry, who invited him in 2013 to join their International Forest Dialogue programme, involving dialogues in Switzerland, South Africa, Chile, Brazil and New Zealand to look at forestry models and issues seeking resolutions via multi stakeholder sessions and field trips.
But native woodland protection and advocacy was just one side of Andrew. He was also a talented artist, wood sculptor and bespoke furniture maker, producing fine quality wooden objects, utilising the beauty of natural woods. The figurehead on the replica famine ship Jeanie Johnston is just one example.
The many tributes being paid to Andrew on social media and elsewhere speak volumes for the work he did and the man he was. His contribution to the environment and biodiversity in the various organisations in which he was involved was immense.
Irish Environmental Network Agriculture Policy Officer, Fintan Kelly, summed up Andrew’s passing in one short line – a mighty oak has fallen.
But like a mighty oak, Andrew has left the world a better place for his having been here and the legacy he leaves.
He will be truly missed. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.