A leading Leitrim IFA official says a new report shows that the natural land environment in Leitrim — rather than the planting of forestry — is better for the environment.
That’s according to a new report that also shows that just over 30% of the owers of forestry in Leitrim were not resident in Ireland – – – and half were from neighbouring counties.
This report was commissioned by Andrew Doyle, Minister of State for Food, Forestry and Horticulture, in February 2019 to assess the social and economic impacts of forestry in Co. Leitrim.
The study was led by Dr. Aine Ní Dhubháin, of UCD in conjunction with the Bureau for Economic Theory and Applications, INRA, France.
It shows the percentage of forest cover in County Leitrim in 2017 was almost 19%, the highest in the country — and higher than the national level of 11%.
Just over two-thirds of owners of forests in County Leitrim had planted forests on their own land, while 26% had bought the land or forestry for investment.
James Gallagher, former Leitrim IFA chairman, says the report turns some conventional thinking about forestry in Leitrim on its head.
And he’s disappointed with what he sees as some aspects of the report:
The report says there was a total of more than 150 fulltime jobs generated as a result of forestry in County Leitrim in 2017, with wood processing generating a further 158 fulltime jobs, half of which were for people living in Leitrim.
It also says an estimate of the direct economic activity associated with forestry in County Leitrim in 2017 was €15m.
And it says the economic activity associated with wood processing was €11.5m, giving a total of €26.5m.
But this is Mr Gallagher’s interpretation of the situation when it comes to jobs and economic benefits.
The report says forests can have negative and positive effects on water quality.
As for the report overall, Mr Gallagher says in the past the policy was for forestry to be planted on marginal land while keeping good land for farming.
But he says this policy is not right for today.