The Environmental Pillar of social partnership has called on Fine Gael and Labour to restate their commitment to the continued public ownership of Coillte. This follows Minister Brendan Howlin’s indications that he would not delay in moving on the sale of state assets identified in the McCarthy Report published yesterday.

Speaking on behalf of the Environmental Pillar, Andrew St Ledger of the Center for Environmental Living and Training (CELT) stated, “We welcomed Fine Gael and Labour’s public and political support to retain ownership of the public forests in the run-up to the general election. We now ask them to restate their support following the recommendations of the McCarthy report. “Ireland cannot afford to lose its 1.1 million acres public forest estate in these difficult times. The cash generated from the sale of Coillte will be a meagre drop in the ocean of debt that Ireland owes, and it makes no sense to sell an asset that managed differently can potentially earn the State a sustainable income in the long run, to help pay off its debts,” said St Ledger.

“We agree with the opinions of a Fine Gael spokesperson that our vital National resources are not up for sale and that Public Forestry assets should be held in trust for all the people of Ireland. In the same article in the farming section of the Irish Independent (25 th Jan, 2011), a Labour spokesperson said ‘we should be looking at ways that we can use Coilltes resources to a greater extent’. These ideas fit very well with the our Treecover Policy document published in November 2010.”

St Ledger, one of the co-authors of the Environmental Pillar’s Treecover Policy claims that “the current forestry model has been very one-dimensional and therefore very restrictive. The Environmental Pillar believes that there is an opportunity to create a new forestry model which is multi-dimensional and will lead to increased rural development by harnessing the EU Rural Development funding that exists to develop such a sustainable treecover/forestry plan.”

The policy calls for the continued public ownership of state forestry. The potential for sustainable forestry is examined, with recommendations that a viable industry with long-term employment opportunities could be established within five to ten years.

In April 2009, Minister for the Environment John Gormley announced the inclusion of environmental groups as part of the Social Partnership process to “ensure that economic decisions have at their very core the concept of sustainability”. The Environmental Pillar has twenty-seven member groups.

ENDS Notes to editors: This press release was developed through the processes of the Environmental Pillar but doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinion of all its members. Environmental Pillar members: An Taisce. Bat Conservation Ireland, BirdWatch Ireland. CELT – Centre for Ecological Living and Training. Coast Watch. Coomhola Salmon Trust. Crann. ECO UNESCO. Feasta. Forest Friends. Friends of the Earth. Gluaiseacht. Grian. Hedge Laying Association of Ireland. Irish Doctors Environment Association. Irish Natural Forestry Foundation. Irish Peatland Conservation Council. Irish Seal Sanctuary. Irish Seed Saver Association. Irish Whale and Dolphin Group. Irish Wildlife Trust. Just Forests. The Organic Centre. Sonairte. Sustainable Ireland Cooperative. VOICE. Zero Waste Alliance Ireland.