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Minister Urged To Investigate Suspended Estate Felling

category national | environment | press release author Monday April 18, 2016 14:28author by foie - Friends of the Irish Environmentauthor email admin at friendsoftheirishenvironment dot org Report this post to the editors

Friends of the Earth Europe - Press Release - 18th April 2016

The Minister for Agriculture has been urged not to end the suspension of timber felling at Castle Forbes Estate in County Longford until a full investigation has been undertaken.

The suspension was initiated by the Forest Service on April 5, 2016 after a complaint was lodged by the environmental group Friends of the Irish Environment for General Felling Licences issued in January and February of this year.

In today’s letter, the group alleges that neither of the two licenses granted required that work not take place during the bird nesting season from 1 May to 30 September.

‘While a 2014 license had a bird protection condition attached, two General Felling Licenses were granted this year with no restrictions in this woodland, which is recorded as a mature forest with oak, elm, and ash as early as 1682’, said Tony Lowes of FIE. ‘Birdlife reported within the woodland includes protected species such as the kestrel, the woodpecker, and mammals such as stoats and red squirrel’s.

According to FIE ‘The site is designated as a Special Area of Conservation and should have been subject to an Appropriate Assessment to ensure no damage would be done by the felling operations under the Habitats Regulations 2011 but the ‘screening’ checklist produced to meet the requirements of the law has been shown to be inadequate to protect our environment.’

‘Not only was there no bird protection of the felling licence, but the conditions restricting the licences to ‘poor quality stems’ and ‘thinning’ in fact included mature hardwoods in a protected ancient woodland. This is completely unacceptable’, Mr Lowes said.

‘It appears that the Forest Service’s highly qualified ecologist was not consulted and that the Parks and Wildlife Service failed to flag the potential damage. The legislation is unequivocal that ‘an Appropriate Assessment of a plan or project is required where the plan or project is not directly connected with or necessary to the management of the site as a European Site and if it cannot be excluded, on the basis of objective scientific information following screening under this Regulation, that the plan or project, individually or in combination with other plans or projects, will have a significant effect on a European site’.

‘The entire system seems to have failed Castleforbes ancient trees and its rare flora and fauna’, the group says.
The letter urges the Minister to require the Forestry Service to consult an inventory of private estate forestry compiled by the Forest Service in the 1970. ‘We asked the Forest Service if they had checked these woodlands against that inventory and were told because it was a confidential document it had probably not been digitalised and so was not available to those considering the licence’.

‘We have been informed’, Mr. Lowes said, ‘that the Forest Service plans to allow the operators to recommence work shorty when the bird nesting season and the squirrel breeding season is in full swing, - let alone the potential damage that could be done to this protected woodland under a General Felling License.

The group has asked the Minister to continue the suspension of work until the full extent of the felling that has taken place can be investigated, including an examination of the records of the timber received by the sawmills, and conditions put in place to protect the woodland and the rare animals its supports.

Contact: Tony Lowes 353 (0)27 74771 /087 2176316

Letter to the Minister:

www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/images/pdf/minister_castleforbes_18.04.16_final

admin@friendsoftheirishenvironment.org

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