Native Woodland Strategy is Launched

Nuacht /

For the first time, a national Native Woodland Strategy 2016-2020 has been published, which sets out a comprehensive, multi-sector vision for Ireland’s native woodlands, and a chartered course for realising that vision.

Native woodlands are a unique and valuable part of Ireland's natural capital and cultural heritage. They deliver key ecosystem services in relation to biodiversity, climate change mitigation, flood control, habitat linkage, water and soil protection, and landscape enhancement. Many of our native woodlands also provide for outdoor recreation and are an ideal place for young and old to learn about nature and the environment. With careful ‘close-to nature’ management, native woodlands provide valuable timber and non-timber products and services worth over €100 million per annum, thereby inputting into people’s livelihoods and rural employment. In the distant past, native woodlands covered upwards of three quarters of the island of Ireland but today, less than 2% remain and urgent action is required to safeguard their future and reap the numerous benefits they provide.

For the first time, a national Native Woodland Strategy 2016-2020 has been published, which sets out a comprehensive, multi-sector vision for Ireland’s native woodlands, and a chartered course for realising that vision. Woodlands of Ireland has developed this 5-year Strategy in consultation with native woodland stakeholders over the past 18 months, which encompasses a broad range of issues relevant to the sustainable management of native woodlands. 

Investing in Ireland’s native woodlands is an important component of Ireland's 2014–2020 Forestry Programme. In this regard, the Forest Service operates a package of measures, in partnership with Woodlands of Ireland and others, to encourage farmers and other landowners to create new native woodland and to restore existing native woodland. The 2014-2020 Forestry Programme sets out a target of 2,700 hectares for new native woodland establishment, and 1,950 hectares for woodland restoration projects. This represents an investment of over €20 million up to the year 2020. The Forestry Programme, along with other incentives and initiatives, forms the core foundation for the implementation of the Native Woodland Strategy 2016-2020.

Native woodlands are also an important component of the National Biodiversity Plan 2011–2016, which is implemented by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. It contains specific measures on native woodland that are reflected in the Native Woodland Strategy. These primarily focus on biodiversity and conservation, especially the protection of Ancient Woodlands, the creation of new native woodlands and the conservation of genetic resources. The National Parks and Wildlife Service is responsible for the designation of woodlands under national and international legislation, as well as promoting their sustainable management in a manner that protects and enhances them while contributing to livelihoods and the rural economy.

Along with all components of our natural and cultural heritage, native woodlands are part of the vision of the Heritage Council which is that their heritage value is enjoyed, managed and protected for the vital contribution that they makes to our identity, well-being and future. The Native Woodland Strategy underpins Heritage Council priorities, especially supporting jobs, education and eco-tourism in local communities. In order to unlock the considerable economic potential native woodlands have, it is vital that we invest in, and strategically expand the resource. 

The Forest Service, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Heritage Council, who sponsor Woodlands of Ireland,  support the National Native Woodland Strategy 2016-2020 and looks forward to working closely with Woodlands of Ireland who will promote it, along with other native woodland stakeholders, to secure this exciting future for Ireland’s native woodlands. Woodlands of Ireland is a native woodland charity dedicated to the sustainable management and expansion of Ireland’s native woodlands. It comprises native woodland practitioners, landowners, government agencies, the research sector, and committed individuals in the general public.