The Forest Network Newsletter
In This Edition
Irish Forestry: Give Us the SEA
FSC Greenwash
Forestry Contractor protest
Vanishing species
INFF Forestry Conference
Online tool to save NoI ancient woodlands
Experts debate role of forests in climate policy
The legal status of Coillte Teo
The unauthorised 8 million Coillte grants
Coillte exploits pesticides export loophole
Crann goes under
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FNN 178: November 2008
FNN is an occasional non-governmental forestry newsletter established in 2002 to address current Irish forestry issues in depth from the environmental perspective.   
FNN is an independent voluntary service. It is distributed only by e-mail and is free. It receives no funding from any source except its readers. 


Irish Forestry: Give Us the SEA
The Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive [SEA] gives Ireland's Environmental NGOs and other stakeholders an opportunity to lay the groundwork for a sustainable national forestry policy. The 1996 Forestry Plan 'Growing for the Future' set a target of 20,000 hectares a year for fast-growing poor-quality non-native conifers until 2030 to achieve 'critical mass'. In fact, planting rates never achieved this level; over the last 5 years they were less than 9,000 hectares a year and in 2007 fell to 6,947 hectares.
The EPA's 2008 Review highlights the fact that 'While many of the economic sectors are now beginning to address requirements of the SEA Directive, it is notable that a number of significant sectors, in particular the forestry, transport and tourism sectors, have yet to engage meaningfully in the process".
Ireland's implementation of this Directive in 2004 created a loophole by excluding forestry funded by the European Commission. As Ireland's forestry programme is no longer funded by the EU, the exemption no longer applies. The Minister for Agriculture is now in breach not just of the Directive but of the State's own Statutory Instrument in failing to meet their obligation to undertake an SEA of forestry. Has the loophole become a noose?
To inform our readers of the issues, we provide here a summary of who controls forestry in Ireland, what its impact is, and what can be done.  Read more | Download the PDF version.
FSC Greenwash certification has proved the largest obstacle that forestry campaigners have met when lobbying for change. FSC certification is used to excuse bad forest practice.
In a recent forestry protest contractors themselves said that "Seas of mud" are being washed into our rivers. "There is major silt and pollution going in to rivers because proper procedures are not being adhered to." But Coillte was able to defend itself by claiming that "FSC certification means that our forest management meets strict environmental, social and economic criteria".
Ireland's high impact forestry does not comply with FCS standards. FSC have failed to resolve well publicised, substantive complaints. Ireland's FSC process for sustainable forestry has failed. This has happened in a wealthy democratic country with vocal environmentalist; what does FSC certify in under-developed countries?
FIE has, after almost ten years work with FSC, now withdrawn it is support.   Read more.  
Forestry contractors' protest
It's a telling combination when forestry contractors join up with environmentalists to highlight the constant abuse of the Forestry Guidelines. FIE's clearfell studies of 2007 received no publicity and made no impact. When the contractors who had been protesting without success at the National Ploughing Championship contacted FIE, however, it gave both sides credibility for a protest at the November Irish Natural Forestry Foundation conference in Cork.
These contractors tell the tale of sites flooded, rutted roads without protection, and widespread pollution - see their photographs. And they tell us why - the bosses refused to pay for the necessary work and if the contractors do it themselves they are accused of environmental damage.  

Read the Irish Examiner's story |   The FIE Press Release  |  The contractor's photographs   | FIE Clearfell 2007 photographs

Vanishing species
FIE has prepared maps documenting two of the species most adversely affected by Irish forestry -  the fresh water pearl mussel and the Hen harrier. It is now clear that the high quality water required for the fresh water pearl mussel to reproduce is no longer available and the species has become functionally extinct. With the Hen harrier, not only were the protected areas drastically reduced after farmer pressure, but it is now recognised that contrary to Ireland's claims, second rotation forestry is not used by the hen harrier. Irish conifer plantation forestry results in the net loss of habitat for the Hen harrier - and many other native species.
Fresh water pearl mussel maps   |   Hen harrier maps  
INFF Forestry Conference

The Irish Natural Forestry Foundation

INFFThe Irish Natural Forestry Foundation's November conference is available online through the Cork Environmental Forum website, a first for Irish NGOs. Subjects include adapting to climate change through agro-forestry. The most relevant to FNN's environmental concerns was 'The ecological effects of forestry practices in spate river catchments of NW Ireland', a catalogue of scientific papers, studies, and photographs detailing the ecological damage of the current forestry practices. Those who doubt FIE's Clearfelling Reports should watch this presentation from Markus Muller, Fisheries Information Manager, NW Regional Fisheries Board, Co. Mayo. This presentation includes the final question and answer session.

INFF, like other initiatives supported by the Forest Service's 'Sustainable Forestry' funding begun in 2005, faces a problematic future because of forestry budgetary cutbacks. INFF's educational programme for schools is a model of how to integrate forestry into the schools' curriculum - including Junior Certificate, Transition Year and Leaving Certificate Geography. It should be replicated across the country, not facing a struggle for survival.
Listen to the lectures    |   Visit the INFF website

Online tool to save NoI ancient woodlands
Friends of the Irish Environment - Public urged to help save our ancient woodlandThe public have been recruited in the battle to save Northern Ireland's oldest trees. Just 0.08% of Northern Ireland's land mass is covered by ancient woodland. And since the 1960s, 273 of Northern Ireland's ancient woodland have been cleared for agriculture and development. Now the Woodland Trust is calling on people to use the planning system to fight back when ancient woodland in their area comes under threat, using a new online tool called WoodWatch.   Read more.
Experts debate role of forests in climate policy
European policymakers, industry and NGOs discussed the role of  forests as carbon sinks and a source of product materials and renewable energy at a two-day conference in Nancy, France, at the end of last week. At the event, supported by the French EU presidency and European commission, experts called for more scientific research, especially to better understand regional differences, and further discussions to ensure the forestry sector plays a key role in shaping a post-2012 climate. See conference website  and IISD coverage .
ENDS Europe DAILY 10.11.08


The legal status of Coillte Teo.
Coillte Teo claims to be a private company but it has been twice ruled to be a public authority by the EU Court of Justice and agreed to act as such in relation to Access to Information on the Environment in a binding 2005 High Court Order - reinforced by a stinging indictment by the Information Commissioner in 2006.
As the second EU Judgment said, 'Neither the company's obligation to manage its affairs on a commercial basis nor the fact, alleged by Ireland, that the State does not, in practice, intervene in the company's management can prevail over the finding that the company is wholly owned and controlled by the State and that the State could therefore intervene.'  Read more. 
The unauthorised 8 million Coillte grant
From 1993 - 1998 Coillte Teo claimed 'premia' grants for planting trees when these grants were intended only for farmers. They then used the proceeds to finance the purchase of 60,000 hectares, borrowing 50.9 which was to be serviced from the premiums receivable into the future. After a long campaign with denials from both the Irish Agriculture Minister and European Commission, in 2001 the Raport Final of the European Commissions Organ de Concilliation who clear all agricultural grant payments ruled that Coillte was a public authority and as such did not qualify for the grants. Ireland and Coillte both challenged the decision to the European Court of Justice and both lost. 
FIE has had Parliamentary Questions tabled for more than 7 years about the return of the funds clawed back by the Commission from Ireland by Coillte Teo to the exchequer with no result. Mary Coughlan's recent reply continues the Government's position that it is 'considering' the issue. If Coillte is not required to return these funds, the funds become state aid and subject to proceedings under the competition law.   Read more.
Coillte exploits pesticides export loophole
UK nurseries have suffered from Coillte's undercutting of their market by dumping left over plants from the failed Irish forestry program on the UK market for some time, especially as they take up the quota allocate by the UK Forestry Commission to the 'private' sector. Now they are particularly bitter about Coillte's import into the UK of seedlings which have been impregnated with flexcoat and insecticides together.
A plant polysaccharide (Flexcoat) with adhesive properties is added to the insecticide Cypermethrin to bind it effectively to the seedlings. The polysaccharide greatly increases the impact of the insecticide. In the Minister's first reply to Tony Gregory's Parliamentary Question, he said the company 'advises that it has received clearance for this from the Pesticide Safety Directorate (PSD) in the UK'.
When Gregory followed up for FIE with a letter from the UK PSD saying they had not authorized Flexicoat and Cypermethrin applied together, the Minister said they were 'not in breach of any United Kingdom Pesticide Safety Directorate (PSD) standards or guidelines relating to the export of cypermethrin-flexcoat treated trees into the UK market.'
UK companies must apply the insecticide and the adhesive polsacchairide seperatly, resulting in a higher cost. A loophole - which Coillte is exploiting without concern for the potential impact on handlers in Ireland and the UK or on the environment - permits import of plants into the UK that have been treated without UK PSD approval.  Read the PQs.


Crann goes under
Jan Alexander
This year's core environmental funding for NGOs - sourced from the plastic bag levy - included an extra €5000 for Crann, self-styled 'Ireland's leading tree organisation', to 'merge' with one of Ireland's other forestry or larger environmental organizations. The €5000 was intended for 'rebranding or similar costs'.
Crann was launched on World Environment Day, June 5, 1986.  The CRANN magazine is - again in their own words - 'Ireland's leading tree magazine bringing all aspects of tree culture to a growing audience'. The motivation behind the organization was to 'put broadleaved trees back on the agenda so that Ireland could at some stage in the future become self sufficient in all of its timber needs'.
Jan Alexander, the organization's founder, served on the first Board of Coillte Teo. and the organization's close alliance with Coillte and the Forest Service limited its ability to achieve its aims.

From 1990-93 Crann, with assistance from the Forest Service, ran a pilot project in the South Leitrim area. Land owners and small farmers who were interested planted up areas of their land using species which they themselves were interested in growing for a variety of uses. Hopefully some of the funds made available can be used to assess that project after almost 20 years - and highlight the lessons.   Crann website.
2008 Appeal
Long standing readers will know that once a year we ask our readers to make a contribution to support this service. We need your contributions because FIE is a network of environmentalists - not a membership organisation which can rely on annual subscriptions. We also need to be assured that our readers actually want this service, as FIE has many demands on its limited resources. The most critical factor for the continuation of FNN is reader's support.
To support FNN, clink on the link to see how to pay by check, credit card or by Paypal, the online service. Please contact us if you have any questions or problems - and - thank you.
The Editors
The editors take collective responsibility for what they publish. The omission of an author's name indicates that the editors generally agree with and stand over the contents. There may be and often are a number of collaborating authors on each article and additionally some authors may for valid reasons not wish to be identified. This does not mean the editors never make mistakes and they look forward to having their attention drawn to any factual inaccuracies in any articles they have published.

Newsletter editors:
Caroline Lewis
Tony Lowes