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Coillte criticised over plan to sell wood

Written in Irish Issues: 02/26/08, 16:12:51 by jonathan  | Print article  | View all categories.
// Coillte criticised over plan to sell wood

AN INTERNATIONAL forestry expert has appealed for retention of the east Galway woodland that is under threat from a potential quarry development.

Wally Menne, representative of the Global Forest Coalition and the South African Timberwatch non-governmental organisation, issued his appeal at Moyode wood in Co Galway at the weekend.

The 200-year-old mixed woodland on some 175 acres has a significant cultural and environmental value, and any destruction of it would have a resonance "beyond the immediate landscape", Mr Menne said.

Residents living near the woodland, close to the village of Craughwell in east Galway, have initiated a campaign to prevent Coillte selling it for development into a quarry.

They have accused Coillte of destroying a substantial woodland solely for economic gain, estimated by the campaign at over 17 million.

Coillte has said it has a mandate to "optimise" the assets and that the company had a "rigorous process to ensure a fully transparent sales process" in disposing of assets.

Tests have shown a substantial level of limestone suitable for quarrying close to the surface. However, Mr Menne said the presence of the porous rock and of turloughs in the area strengthened the environmental argument for preserving and developing the woodland.

Any "mining" in the area could have long term effects on groundwater supplies, he said.

Mr Menne said that he was struck by the number of place names in Irish which showed close cultural connections with wooded areas.

"Materialism has separated people from their natural world, and it is important to reclaim this," he told The Irish Times. Any destruction of the woodland would also have a devastating impact on animal and bird habitats, he said.

"Ireland is a signatory to the UN convention on biodiversity, but it has to live up to this," Mr Menne said. "Restoring natural woodland is also a great way to reduce carbon emissions in a way that involves communities, rather than 'buying indulgences' through paying for carbon credits," Mr Menne said.

His visit was hosted by the Woodland League and the Moyode Woodland Preservation Group. Andrew St Ledger of the Woodland League said that whereas the Government was committed to buying carbon offsets through planting industrial plantations in the developing world, it believed "carbon sinks" provided by native natural woodlands should be promoted.

Fine Gael senator Fidelma Healy Eames said she found it "hypocritical" that a body set to develop forests should be selling the wood for use as a quarry.
Lorna Siggins
2008 The Irish Times