Local community campaigns must have a voice on the newly formed Forestry Policy group in order to meet the industry’s pressing challenges.
Groups such as Save Leitrim, Save Cavan and Save Kerry have been at the forefront in calling for an improved forestry model. The Environmental Pillar, the Sustainable Water Network, BirdWatch Ireland, An Taisce and the Irish Wildlife Trust are urging Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity Pippa Hackett to include a representative from these campaigns in the forestry group. 
The foundation for Sustainable Forestry Management must be balanced between social, environmental, and economic interests. Failing to strike such an equilibrium will see the Sustainable Forestry Management Policy, Strategy and Programme collapse, putting nature and communities at risk of further damage.
Having a representative voice the concerns of impacted communities to the group will better our understanding of the social ramifications of our current, unsustainable forestry model and will help us build relationships in order to find necessary solutions.
If we fail to take advantage of such expertise, the aims and objectives of the Forestry Policy group will be significantly compromised.
Additionally, many local groups are made up of small farmers, and their support will be critical to embracing the long overdue conjoinment of farming and forestry.
Following their public expression of disappointment at being left out of the process, Forestry Contractors subsequently had a representative admitted to take part in the policy group. This has demonstrated to us that the group is in fact willing to increase the diversity of its make-up.
As the process is still at this early stage and has yet to begin in earnest, we are asking Minister Hackett to reconsider and invite one representative from Save Leitrim, Save Cavan and Save Kerry to bring their expertise and insight to this group.
Andrew St. Ledger, CELT and Environmental Pillar spokesperson, said:
“For the new Forestry Programme to succeed, it is imperative that a representative from local communities like Save Leitrim, Save Cavan and Save Kerry is at the table providing input.
These communities bring valuable firsthand experience of the current issues, and they are crucial in paving the way forward. Only with their support can we ensure a sustainable model for both society and nature.
The Minister has openly expressed a desire to fix the current failing forestry model, and she can do this by ensuring there is a level playing field for all the relevant stakeholders in the forestry policy group.
That way we will have a more socially acceptable, economically viable and ecologically beneficial forestry model for everyone’s benefit. A win, win, win.”
Notes: The joint letter to Minister Hackett is available at: https://bit.ly/2WkcyWL