‘If Rural Communities are to survive, forestry must be properly regulated,’ stated Councillor John Paul Feeley at the May Meeting of Cavan County Council. Outlining his concerns and those expressed to him by constituents about the lack of strong regulation of forestry he stated that forestry can play a part in the overall agricultural sector of the economy but it must not be given preferential treatment over other sectors. He noted that at present jobs in the timber industry are not spread throughout the country and that much of the timber felled in Ireland is exported unprocessed and therefore no added value to the Irish Economy. ‘Currently the system appears to give preferment to forestry to the determinate of active farmers and with a generally negative impact on local communities. There is little or no regard for the impact on visually sensitive areas especially those important for our tourist sector. From an environmental prospective, monoculture forestry does not support biodiversity as it provides a limited habitat, acidifies our lakes and rivers, affecting fish stocks and during planting and felling causes silting in those rivers and streams.’ ‘In addition, when felled, forestry companies leave lands in a state akin to a ‘nuclear landscape.’ It is disgraceful that these lands are left in this state and this is something that must be dealt with by the Department. Lands must not be left in a manner that is so disgracefully unsightly.’ ‘In terms of impact of the local community, no regard is had for the isolation that is caused by the afforestation of large tracts of the countryside, it cuts off homes and other lands.’ ‘The current regime does not allow a level playing field for adjoining farmers. They cannot realistically complete with investors and forestry companies who wish to purchase lands for forestry. Obtaining adjoining lands can improve long-term sustainability for farmers and this must be a key objective to protecting rural communities.’ ‘When we consider that to build a house or most other structures a person must go through the rigours of the planning system and most, even modest developments attract payments of Development Contributions. A family, who by living in a community contribute to its sustainability must pay a hefty Development Levy to the local authority and ongoing Local Property Tax, a forestry which will make little or no contribution to the local economy and has a major negative impact on local roads is exempt from Development Levies and effectively exempt from the planning system.’ ‘We must have a playing field for local communities, adjoin landowners must have a say in terms of the negative impact on their property by afforestation through the open and transparent planning system. Local Authorities must be empowered to impose development levies on the same basis as other developments within their areas.’ ‘Caps should be imposed on the percentage of a townland or area which can be subject to afforestation so as to ensure communities survive and whole regions are not completely lost to monoculture plantation.’ ‘Finally, Government should ensure that grant aid for forestry is targeted at active farmers rather than large scale investors. Like most payments on other lands, the Department confines payments to active farmer, why should forestry be treated any differently?’ ENDS