Social Democrats TDs Jennifer Whitmore and Holly Cairns have called for clarity on a recent advertisement by Coillte looking to buy bare land and land with immature forestry. The advert, which has been circulating on social media platforms, also says the semi-state company’s position is to sell land that is no longer suitable for its requirements.

Deputy Whitmore, party spokesperson for Climate Action and Biodiversity, said:

“Without any further information around Coillte’s latest proposal, it is worrying to hear that the intention is to sell land somehow deemed unsuitable for Coillte’s purposes. In the midst of a climate and biodiversity crisis, this land should not be sold but instead set aside for conservation purposes. There is a huge opportunity to manage this land to help us address our biodiversity and climate crisis, rather than sell it off to the highest bidder.

“Furthermore, we have signed up to an EU commitment to protect 30% of land reserves which would require an ambition to retain all Coillte land in public ownership. We cannot do this if we are considering selling off land which could be used for biodiversity and conservation purposes.”

Deputy Holly Cairns, party spokesperson for Agriculture, commented:

“We need immediate clarity on this matter from Coillte and the Department of Agriculture. 2019 Forest Statistics reports that only 11% of the land area of the State is forestry and of that nearly two-thirds is conifer forest. There is a clear need for significant public investment in afforestation and the setting of more ambitious targets for the amount of native broadleaf species being planted.

“At a time when we are being reminded of the necessity of access to natural amenities, it is worrying the Coillte is seemingly selling off land on the basis of profitability. Coillte has a large range of excellent recreation facilities across Ireland, which are rich natural resources with benefits for local populations and tourism.

“There is considerable scope for more areas to be converted for recreational use by taking a strategic approach, rather than selling them off. Coillte’s own public consultation process has identified the demand for increased development of new/additional recreational amenities in various parts of the country.”

February 19, 2021

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