Press Release - Friends of the Irish Environment 3rd Aug 2019
Butchery’ of protected woodland halted by National Parks and Wildlife Service
The National Parks and Wildlife Service [NPWS] has halted all felling in a private estate in County Longford on Friday evening after a report was filed by the environmental charity Friends of the Irish Environment.
The felling was taking place within an ancient forest which Minister Heather Humphries signed a Statutory Instrument in October 2017, completing the legal designation process as the Lough Forbes Special Area of Conservation.
The woodland, known as the ‘Big Wood’ is adjacent to Lough Forbes, a lake formed by a broadening of the River Shannon near the town of Newtownforbes.
The oak, ash, and hazel woodland has been ‘butchered’, according to reports received by FIE. Tony Lowes of FIE said that ‘Although the largest veteran trees have been spared, it’s beyond shocking to hear of the savagery of these operations in a woodland that has been present on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey maps from the 1840s. According to the NPWS, the wood ‘may be considered therefore as potentially ancient or long-established woodlands’.
‘Slow growing trees like mountain ash the size of car tyre rims were being trucked out daily for the last 5 weeks, along with sycamore and oak. Machinery has devasted the shrub layer of the woodland, tearing up the ground and driving over trees with no regard to the wildlife or to many birds that use this woodland as a refuge. Many types of birds rely on this protected woodland for their survival.’
The National Parks and Wildlife Ranger, Sue Moles, responded to the environmental organisation’s report in less than five minutes, according Tony Lowes.
Four years ago
Four years ago the NPWS and the Forest Service intervened after FIE, assisted by residents of the area, exposed the unauthorised wide scale felling of mature oak trees and the felling of giant sequoias planted in the early 1900’s by owners of Castle Forbes demesne.
The Forest Service was unable to prosecute, according to Mr. Lowes, ‘because the practice at the time was to contain conditions protecting the environment in cover letters rather than within the licence itself and so were unenforceable’.
‘Since that time we have both a new Forestry Act and a Statutory Instrument to protect these woodlands and yet this devastation has taken place. Ironically, many of the jays which lost their home during the illegal felling in 2014 fled to the Big Wood, only to find themselves under attack once again.
‘The Forest Service must ensure the landowners are prosecuted, and the Courts must be prevented from accepting the ‘poor mouth’ pleas of the owners of these ancient estate woodlands, many of which are held by companies in tax-efficient entities in foreign jurisdictions’.
Friends of the Irish Environment: Tony Lowes 353 (0)27 74771 / 353 (0)87 2176316
Daithí Ó hÉalaithe (Irish language) +353 (0)87 6178852