The Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) have outlined the need to find solutions to the Governments outdated model of forestry at meetings held in Brussels and with Minister Andrew Doyle.
Forestry and Climate Change Spokesperson Gerry Loftus stated how “at these meetings we have raised the problems associated with the current approach of industrial plantations of predominantly fast growing non-native conifers for farmers, rural communities and the environment. In doing so we have also outlined solutions around sustainable afforestation which has the potential to contribute substantially to a future for family farms and communities, climate change, habitats and biodiversity, the environment and the rural economy.”
The model currently in place added Loftus “has opened doors to big business and speculators. They remain anonymous availing of grants and premiums but as they aren’t part of the local economy –local communities and farm families suffer. In raising these issues the INHFA has called for responsible land-based investment practices and a change of approach which will focus on the following:
• Transparency around forestry investment by making all relevant information available to the public except when subject to legitimate business confidentiality.
• Zero tolerance of corruption.
• Practices which inherently mitigate the risks for all.
• Practices which increase benefits for local people and communities including creating direct and indirect revenue generating opportunities for local communities.
• Practices which are environmentally sustainable and ensure the sustainable use of natural resources.”
In 2008 continued Loftus “our economy crashed and at the time our Government said they never saw it coming, but the consequences of that crash continues to this day through higher taxes and reduced services. If our current forestry policy does not change we will face similar consequences both environmentally and economically as we fail to meet our climate change obligations.”
He concluded by stating how “we all have a responsibility to ensure this policy is changed and until such time as this happens we will continue our campaign to protect the taxpayer, the environment, rural families and communities by seeking to put in place responsible land-based investment practices.”