News and Events Latest News and Press Releases Coillte and Bord na Mona merger could pose a danger to Ireland's environment Environmental Pillar Press Release The Environmental Pillar fear the latest merger between Coillte and Bord na Móna could pose a danger to Ireland's environment. The Pillar, which is made up of 27 of Ireland's national environmental NGOs, are now calling on the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to clarify the status of the new joint venture and what exactly its remit will be. Yesterday Minister Coveney announced the merger stating that it would help the state 'derive as much value' from the venture. The Environmental Pillar believe that this focus on short term gains, particularly with regard to biomass production and wind farms, could have a damaging effect on Ireland's wider environment including our already vulnerable uplands. It is this very short term focus that has lead Coillte to fail at it's core objective, which is the sustainable management of the public forest resource. This latest proposal to merge Coillte with Bord na Móna, in what appears to be a very loose arrangement to co-operate and focus on biomass, wind farm businesses and tourism in particular appears to be extremely short sighted and strictly profit oriented. Ireland has already felt the impact of hasty wind farm development through three Coillte related landslides in Galway, Kerry and Leitrim. There have also been ongoing reports over many years of damage to watercourses associated with Coillte clearfelling, herbicide use and fertilisation activities, as is highlighted in the recent EPA Hydrofor project results. A Pillar spokesperson, Andrew St Ledger, said: "It is the outdated Coillte Industrial tree farming model, that needs changing, this model is overly reliant on chemicals, exotic conifers, and destructive harvesting by heavy machines. The biomass part of this plan is in effect giving the green light for an actual intensification of this negative forestry policy model. This is a real missed opportunity to reform Coillte and in turn, create a truly sustainable state forestry policy ". Coillte needs to address not only the poor level of afforestation, with the state apparently unable to meet its own target of 15,000 ha new planting per annum , but also the lack of specific initiatives to transform the species diversity in the national forest estate to focus on our native tree species as well as introduce more sustainable management practices. International research is showing that native trees are most adapted for Climate change mitigation, as well as for biodiversity enhancement. Coillte have failed to increase our extremely low treecover, which when coupled with the inability of the State to maintain the 15,000 ha per annum new planting targets of the national forestry strategy, means the biomass objectives of the new plan will be impossible to achieve. Since 2007 the average new planting is only approx 8000 ha per annum with an overdependence on non native species.. According to COFORD, the State forestry research body, in a 2009 publication, Forestry 2030, in a paper, Irish Forestry and renewable energy, they state: "Simply stated, if afforestation continues to fall below 15,000 ha per year as in recent years then wood fuel supply (biomass) will not be sustainable in the long term. It will therefore not be possible to meet the government's long term targets for renewable energy from our national resources. As security of supply is a key issue in government energy policy, national afforestation levels and funding must reflect this need ". St Ledger went on to say, "Bord na Mona also needs to address its destructive policy of peat harvesting. A comprehensive policy of peatland restoration must be put in place for biodiversity and for Ireland to meet its climate change objectives." The Pillar see this merger proposal as failing to address the real issues surrounding Ireland's outdated forestry policy. While providing the appearance of a well thought out new plan to boost the flagging Irish economy, in reality very little will have changed at all, the losers will be the Irish people and their environment. ENDS The Pillar would like to ask the Minister to respond to the following questions in relation to this merger decision: How will the security of supply issue outlined by COFORD in 2009, be addressed when afforestation targets remain at critically low levels. Why have Coillte not already developed a successful Biomass model. Why can Coillte not supply any of the guaranteed demand for quality timber poles by both the ESB and Eircom, both of which are importing vast amounts of timber poles, allowing a significant amount of revenue to leave the economy as well as highlighting a lack of vision and forestry competency. Why is a Coillte's actual forestry/timber operation not their main source of income? Why was the review of Coillte initiated by the last government not completed and the report made public, this critical review would have shown up the weaknesses in Coillte and allowed for an opportunity to implement the necessary critical reforms. Will this merger merely continue to hide the real issues of competence and capacity to sustainably manage the Public forest resources, in effect buying time and kicking the can down the road. Who will regulate the activities of two semi state bodies who will be under fierce pressure to deliver an economic return, knowing in the past how self regulation by Coillte in particular simply does not benefit the environment or the communities who suffer the immediate consequences of lax regulation. Notes for Editor: A copy of the Environmental Pillar Tree Cover policy can be found here: http://environmentalpillar.ie/files/2010/12/Environmental-Pillar-Tree-Cover-Policy-Nov-2010-3.pdf COFORD Forestry 2030 http://www.coford.ie/publications/forestry2030/ About the Environmental Pillar The Environmental Pillar is a national social partner, comprising 27 national environmental organisations. It works to promote the protection and enhancement of the environment, together with the creation of a viable economy and a just society, without compromising the viability of the planet on which we live for current and future generations of all species and ecosystems. For more information, please see our website, Facebook or Twitter. Member Organisations of the Environmental Pillar: An Taisce, Bat Conservation Ireland, BirdWatch Ireland, Centre for Environmental Living and Training, CoastWatch, Coomhola Salmon Trust, Crann, ECO-UNESCO, FEASTA, Forest Friends, Friends of the Earth, Global Action Plan, Gluaiseacht, Irish Doctors' Environmental Association, Irish Wildlife Trust, Hedge Laying Association of Ireland, Irish Natural Forestry Foundation, Irish Peatland Conservation Council, Irish Seal Sanctuary, Irish Seed Savers Association, Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, Native Woodland Trust, Sonairte, Sustainable Ireland Cooperative (Cultivate), The Organic Centre, VOICE, Zero Waste Alliance.