Not many friends of the environment left in Celtic Tigerland..
FNN 172: Parliamentary Questions – Appeal for support
The response to FNN’s appeal for support from subscribers has been, with a single exception, silence.
This is really discouraging for those of us who have worked hard to keep FNN alive and kicking. We paste below the Sunday Times coverage of FNN 171, which also received a half page in Monday’s Irish Independent (with photographs from our site) and a debate between Tony Lowes and Gerry Egan of Coillte on Monday’s RTE Morning Ireland news.
Our next issue will include replies to the written Parliamentary Questions below which have been tabled to greet our Ministers on their return.
Please support us. This is meaningful work and at the moment there us no one else to do it.
Caroline, Ian, and Tony
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or by post to Friends of the Irish Environment, Allihies, Co. Cork.
Of lies, incompetence ,& non native coniferous trees.
Minister for Environment
If the Minister will provide a list of the 125 rivers known to host the fresh water pearl mussel Margaritifera margaritifera with their location by county and their length; the 45 catchments involved with their location by county and their extent in hectares; and the amount of afforestation by hectares in each of these catchments.
Minister for Agriculture
To ask the Minister if she can assure the Deputy that she revealed the full Terms of Reference of the Forestry and Margaritifera Group’s Technical Working Group for the proposed Forestry Guidelines in her reply to this Deputy’s parliamentary question [21512/06] and that no agreement was reached with Coillte Teo to ensure that the Terms of Reference included the requirement for the Guidelines to be ‘cost efficient’.
To ask the Minister if the definition of peat soils incorporated in Schedule 1 of the ‘Nitrates’ Regulations 2006 [European Communities (Good Agriculture Practice for the Protection of Waters) Regulations, 2006 (S.I. No. of 2006)] as
‘soils with an organic matter content exceeding 20%’ will also be applied to soils used for forestry.
To ask the Minister if she is satisfied that the foliar analysis upon which her Forest Service’s approval of fertilisation of forestry is based is sufficient to determine phosphorous deficiency in the soil.
To ask the Minister for the maximum amount of phosphates fertilisers permitted to be applied per hectare for afforestation projects over their rotation.
If the Minister can assure the Deputy that sufficient information is required to be provided in the application for all Felling Licences to ensure her Forest Service is able to assess the impact on the environment and if she will provide the information required for each application.
To ask the Minister if her Forest Service has the ability to regulate forest road construction if it is not being approved for grant aid to ensure the protection of the environment?
To ask the Minister if her Forest Service has the ability to regulate hand fertilization if it is outside the grant aid period to ensure the protection of the environment?
If the Minister could specify the enforcement provisions she has to control unapproved plantations of trees and the powers she has to require that the development be reversed and the owner be prosecuted.
If the Minister will give the date on which Coillte Teo. reimbursed the Government for the grant aid intended for farmers claimed by Coillte Teo. which was clawed back by the European Commission.
If the Minister will institute a review of the 1996 Strategic Plan for the Development of the Forestry Sector in Ireland which reflects the current planting rates and accepts the reality of the current planting figures being unable to allow the Government to reach the targets required for ‘critical mass’ as specified in that Plan and in the terms of reference of Peter Bacon’s Review of that Plan.
Mussel power leaves the trees standing
A TINY creature is about to cost the Irish forestry industry millions in lost revenue. The pearl mussel, which lives 120 years and is extremely sensitive to pollution, is set to change forever the way trees are grown and felled in parts of Ireland.
The difficulties for Coillte, the state forestry agency, began after phosphorous and nitrate silt leaked into the Owenriff river in Galway in May 2004, and
caused an algae bloom that asphyxiated most of the mussels living downstream.
The bivalve is a protected species under European law, and Ireland has the largest remaining population.
Mary Coughlan, the minister for agriculture, imposed a moratorium on forestry activities in all pearl mussel areas last May, some 18 months after officials in the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) recognised the problem. Coillte can now neither continue fertilising the trees in these areas nor cut them down in an economically viable way. Gerry Egan, Coillte’s company secretary, said yesterday less than a quarter of the company’s forests, were affected. But internal documents and environmentalists suggest otherwise.
Aine O’Connor, an environmental officer at the NPWS, began an internal debate on the issue in an e-mail to her colleagues in October 2004, five months after the bloom emerged.
"I am very concerned that populations in other river catchments are at risk," she wrote.
"Current evidence suggests that clear felling of conifer plantations in blanket bog and heath catchments lead to massive losses . . . I believe that all forestry activities in mussel catchments should be suspended."
One of her colleagues, Noel Kirby, replied: "Having looked at the Owenriff situation it is my impression that we are sitting on fertiliser time bombs that are coming to the fore after 50-plus years of fertiliser usage for forestry."
A spokesman for the Department of Agriculture said last week that clear felling had been prohibited in 25 river catchment areas and there was now a ban on new planting as well. Studies are being carried out to decide what kind of forestry might be more suitable in these areas.
The mussel is known to live in 25 rivers nationwide, including the Shannon, Suir, Barrow, Nore, Slaney, Bandon, both Blackwaters and Lough Corrib. The Department of Agriculture confirmed that if the mussel is discovered elsewhere, the ban will be extended to those rivers too. In the past the species has lived in most Irish waterways.
In another internal e-mail released to Friends of the Irish Environment under a European access to information law Pat Warner, a Forest Service inspector, warned the problem could be bigger than expected.
"Please be aware," he wrote, "that unless [pearl mussels] are a lot more rare than I think, you are contemplating closing down a significant amount of the state’s afforestation programme, both private and public, if you ban fertilisers in whole catchments. You can’t grow commercial timber in uplands without fertiliser."
Coillte’s forestry model, which involves regular clear felling of swathes of forest, is now known to acidify soil and dump huge amounts of phosphorous and nitrates into the ground and rivers.
Jim Ryan, an official at the NPWS, told his colleagues he was "stunned" at the amount of fertiliser used by Coillte and the Forest Service and referred to one study in the Cloosh forest in Galway where phosphorous levels in the water from fertilisation and clear felling were 40 times the accepted limit.
Coillte, established in 1989 with the principal remit of making a profit, has almost exclusively grown non-native coniferous trees in poor-quality peat uplands, the same areas susceptible to the chemical leaching that pollutes rivers and kills the pearl mussel.
Last year the European Environment Agency found that 83% of all forestry planted between 1990 and 2000, most of which is still waiting to be harvested and sold, was on peat. While Coillte and the government say the study is wrong, another analysis by University College Cork (UCC) found that at least 50% of forested land is planted on peat bogs.
© Sunday Times sept 2006