The Irish government is planning to sell off our national forests which are currently owned by Coillte. The plan would be to sell harvesting rights on 500,000 acres out of 1.2 million that they manage. They claim it is worth €700 million although in the Peter Bacon report on Forestry, he puts the true value at €360 million or the equivalent of 3 days of government expenditure. Bacon said: "economic rationale for the proposed sale of harvesting rights no longer stands up and cannot be justified." and that he further concluded it would actually cost the state €1,300 million to sell the harvesting rights of Coillte due to various liabilities. The report says that the forests should be developed further as a public resource.
But it does not stop just there because part of the plan to sell the harvesting rights would see the land lease to private companies for 90 years and there would be no obligation to continue public access and given experience it has had on other countries the public would lose access to these lands for recreation. This would affect tourism, hikers, mountain-bikers, joggers, families out on weekend walks and many other forms of recreation. Leasing the land for 90 years is a good as selling it for good!
This has to be stopped.
Wish it be known that the public forests belong to the people of Ireland and under no circumstances should they be sold to private interests as a short-sighted economic reaction.
The economy of Ireland under the Gaelic Order was that of the forests. This great resource was the provider of raw materials, medicine, weapons, tools, charcoal and food (in the form of berries, nuts, fungi, fruit, wild animals, etc.) as well as the basis for spirituality and wisdom. No other country has as many placenames connected to the forest with as many as 40,000 still in existence. Our forests are of great cultural and economic importance, therefore in these uncertain times we must retain full control over this most precious resource.
The loss of our public forests will mean an area equivalent to two medium sized counties will be gone forever, all the potential benefits to local communities (now needed more than ever) will be lost. Access to rivers and water rights, fishing and hunting rights, wild fruits, nuts, mushrooms and basic access to nature will be removed, as well as the environmental services trees provide.
The Irish forests need to be placed in a trust to safeguard them now and into the future. We also wish to see the public forests developed and diversified to maximise their potential multiple benefits for the common good of the Nation. This should focus on the conservation, restoration, and enhancement of our neglected native tree species. The native trees of any place are scientifically recognised to be the most valuable land based habitat for biodiversity and ecosystem services.
We hope that you appreciate the seriousness of this matter, that you will reconsider any notion of selling the public forests and proceed to act in the best interests of the Irish people.