Fianna Fáil TD for Roscommon/Galway Eugene Murphy has warned that many rural counties are being inundated with large swaths of forestry which are posing a major threat to rural life and agriculture.
Deputy Murphy recently tabled a parliamentary question with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine in relation to both the number of afforestation licences granted and refused from 2016 to 2018.
“The figures show that from 2016 to June 2018, nationally a total of 3,362 afforestation licences were approved however during that same time period only 93 licences were refused. Rural counties such as Leitrim, Roscommon and parts of Galway have particular problems where there is a disproportionate amount of afforestation licences granted compared to other parts of the country. In County Roscommon a total of 291 afforestation licences were granted over the last three years but only 15 refused.
Since 2016 to June 2018, some 243 licences have been given the go ahead for forestry development in County Leitrim and only two refused during the same time period. The figures in Galway are somewhat similar as a total of 229 afforestation licences were granted over the last three years but only 8 refused.
“Many rural areas have been inundated with forestry and in some cases homeowners and landowners have been hemmed in on all sides of their property and there is a serious issue with a lack of sunlight. There are also issues particularly in parts of North Roscommon and Leitrim where large commercial interests or timber companies are buying up large swaths of land for forestry plantations and pricing smaller landowners out of the equation and this is preventing many farmers from being able to extend their farm holdings.
The type of forestry being planted is also problematic as there seems to be an inundation of the countryside with Sitka spruce in particular. If Minister Creed does not take action soon large parts of North Roscommon and Leitrim will be lost under a carpet of green- we need to incentivise alternatives to Sitka spruce.
As a former horticulturist, I am not opposed to forestry developments provided that it does not hem in people and their properties. Also I feel that there should be a greater emphasis on broad leaf natives. I am also calling on Minister Creed to examine more attractive tax breaks or indeed introduce incentives for landowners who lease their land to active farmers,” concluded Deputy Murphy.