Coillte and Gresham House deal “simply about corporate profit”

By Eoin Ryan

Farmers, foresters and politicians express their frustration as Coillte and Gresham House establish a €200 million Irish Strategic Forestry Fund to purchase 12,000 hectares of new and existing forests.

TD Darren O’Rourke said the deal is not beneficial to forestry or climate and “simply about corporate profit” as “Gresham House has confirmed that 8,000 hectares of their Irish portfolio will be existing forestry land, as little as 3,000 hectares will be bare land for new tree-planting.

“A good forestry policy is one that delivers for the environment, delivers for communities and delivers for local economies.”

Tánaiste Micheál Martin said there will be no privatisation of public land and “Coillte will not sell out any existing publicly owned forests to the fund, nor will any other public body sell land to the fund. Any land purchased by the fund will already be in private ownership and no private landowner will be forced to sell land to the fund.”

The government’s long term goal is to have 18% of Ireland covered in forestry by 2050, an additional 450,000 hectares of trees to be planted. There is currently less than 12% of Ireland in forest with the EU average at 40%.

Coillte has a huge role to play in achieving this, with a goal of planting 100,000 hectares by 2050, Despite this, they have only planted 200 hectares of trees last year and 50 hectares the year before with a goal of 300 hectares for 2023. 

In response to the criticism, Chief Executive of Coillte said “There is an urgent need for Ireland to meet stretching Climate Action targets and creating new forests is integral to the achievement of these targets.”

The newly established Save Our Forests Alliance, which is composed of rural and farming organisations, staged a protest outside the Coillte headquarters in Wicklow. Protesters were also calling for broader reform to Coillte’s operations.

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