Scottish Woodlands features in election manifesto
Scottish Woodlands Ltd has featured in a forestry manifesto for Northern Ireland - which calls for an updated Forestry Strategy, greater tree planting and more wood use.
Dessy Henry, Operational Director for Scottish Woodlands, outlined the challenges facing the industry in The Future is Forestry: A Manifesto for Trees and Timber in Northern Ireland.
The document, produced by trade body Confor, highlights the need to better promote the benefits of tree planting to farmers and landowners - and ensure the application and approval processes for woodland creation are working effectively.
But the centrepiece of the 5-point was the call to produce a new Forestry Strategy - as the last one dates back to 2006. Confor's Deputy Chief Executive Andy Leitch stressed that the industry would press politicians to produce a new Strategy as a catalyst to delivering the economic and environmental potential of forestry in Northern Ireland.
Dessy Henry said more support was required to encourage farmers and landowners to plant. He said: "The challenge is a lack of financial incentive to plant on poorer-quality ground - marginal areas between good productive agricultural land and boggy, rocky, unplantable land. The best land is rightly reserved mainly for agriculture, but annual payments are much higher for good land than poorer land. Better incentives would see more trees planted on poorer, rushy land on the hill.
"The lack of incentive means there isn’t much planting going on, so it’s unlikely Northern Ireland will get near 900 hectares of new woodland every year in the
decade to 2029."
The document shows that only 200-300 hectares have been planted annually in recent years.
Mr Henry points out in the manifesto that Scottish Woodlands was involved in the largest planting scheme in Northern Ireland in recent years, 45 hectares near Bushmills in North Antrim.
He says: "That scheme was mainly productive forestry but the main push is for broadleaves. We need a mix - including commercial species to deliver a timber crop, and income for the landowner."
"We need to grow more timber to build sustainable and meet our climate change ambitions."
"We must allow landowners and farmers to put lower-value land to good use - to benefit them, the environment and the rural economy."
You can read the full manifesto here.