The following letter recently appeared in the Irish newspaper, the Examiner.
It paints a disturbing picture of the environmental impact of the FSC-certified state forestry company, Coillte, which controls around 400,000 hectares of land in Ireland. FSC-Watch has reported on Coillte several times in the past – but the certificate remains as a stain on FSC’s credibility.
It has also brought into doubt the credibility of Soil Association Woodmark, which took over the certificate from SGS in 2004, and re-issued the certficate in 2005. In contravention of the FSC’s requirements, Soil Association Woodmark has, as of March 7th, failed to produce a public report of its annual surveillance of Coillte, which took place in December 2006.
“Despite its green credentials, Coillte continues to ignore its environmental culpability”.
As the supposed environmental custodian of 8% of Ireland’s land, Coillte still persists with policices considered environmentally destructive by many international wildlife and forest authorities. Britain’s Forestry Authority ceased intensive plantation of conifers 18 years ago and now recommends such estates be chopped down and replaced with native woodlands. While the injurious environmental side-effects of conifer plantations are well-documented, Coillte claims “sitka spruce is ideally suited for Ireland’s mountains and marginal land”.
This is wrong. Mountain soil is unsuitable for conifer growth and only becomes plantable when the bog-cover is gouged open and drained. This causes the underlying clay to release toxic iron and aluminium and water acidity rises, resulting in the neighbouring waterways (many of which are prime salmon and trout nursery streams) becoming virtually lifeless. While evidence from Canada shows forestry chemicals destroy the homing mechanisms of migrating salmon, Coillte admits to having annually used nine tonnes of organo-chloride Lindane, knowing this pesticide is banned in Ireland, North America and Europe. Coillte has also regularly used the insecticide Cypermethrin, a well documented destroyer of both insect and aquatic life.
To successfully grow conifers, the soil must be enriched with phosphate, followed by further fertiliser applications at later dates. Coillte’s mode of application is via helicopter, an environmentally destructive and wasteful method because 30% of fertilisers is lost to wind and rain and by its falling on unplanted ground. These huge volumes of phosphate are responsible for the eutrophication of waterways.
After 12 years, the conifers are harvested but unlike normal tree-felling, all involved terrain is ripped up – roots, soil and vegetation. The released mud and conifer detritus form lagoons of organic filth that sluices down the hillsides, washing torrents of phosphates and nitrates into the waterways. This causes both neighbouring pollution and obliteration of life in distant lakes, rivers and streams.
How can this be allowed to happen? Before it’s too late, the EPA or Environment Department should do something to protect what is left of Ireland’s once-proud environment from Coillte’s rapacious policies.
Dr Roderick D O’ Sullivan 8 Devonshire Place London W1G 6HP England