FSC’s certified disgrace continues in Ireland

Despite what Greenpeace might want the public believe about the FSC being well on the way to becoming a credible certification scheme again, people living with the effects of some of FSC’s certified operations know better. In Ireland, as FSC-Watch has been reporting
for the last two years, the state forestry company Coillte has remained FSC certified for the last seven years, despite the numerous failures being known by both its certifier and the FSC itself. The latest report of Coillte’s negligent practices shown below have been published in the Irish Examiner newspaper.

Soil Association-certified mass soil erosion.

The case continues to be a stark reminder of FSC’s utter impotence in dealing with wayward certifiers, such as the Soil Association, which has blustered, deferred and dissembled in defence of its certification of what is an obviously non-compliant company.

Soil Assocation-certified rivers of mud.

Soil Assocation-certified rivers of mud.

(Unfortunately, we do not have photos of the Soil Assocation-certified pollution and degradation of freshwater habitats which the above Soil Association-certified soil erosion is causing, but will make these available if they become available).

‘Seas of mud being washed into rivers’

AN ECOLOGICAL disaster is on the cards because of tree felling by the state’s forestry company, environmentalists have claimed.

Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) accused Coillte of flouting strict tree felling conditions, designed to protect the environment, on a site in north Cork.

But Coillte rejected the accusations and said it has complied with all regulations.

“No statutory body has lodged any complaints regarding environmental or other damage on the site in question,” a spokesperson said

The state-owned forestry company is felling a Sitka spruce plantation in the Ballyhoura Mountains, near Doneraile.

The site is in the catchment of the Awbeg River, a tributary of the Blackwater.

The Awbeg is a breeding ground for otters and supports a significant population of Atlantic salmon. The river also supports a population of White-clawed crayfish, a threatened species.

FIE spokesman Tony Lowes claimed that silt traps have not been put in place on the felling site, and that special tracks to carry heavy machinery have not been provided.

“High impact clear felling of extensive plantations on sensitive upland sites combined with high rainfall is a recipe for disaster,” he said.

And this is the fifth example from the south-west that the group has reported to the Fisheries Board, the Parks and Wildlife Service, the Forest Stewardship Council and to Coillte itself in the last 18 months, he added.

FIE backed a protest outside a forestry conference in Cork yesterday, mounted by five forestry contractors concerned about the environmental damage.

Protest organiser Michael Cronin, a tree felling contractor from Ardmore, said they felt compelled to highlight the situation despite the risk of losing work.

“We are aware of huge damage being done quite unnecessarily,” he said.

“Apart from the environmental damage, it gives both the contractors and forest industry a bad name. If we complain we lose our jobs.

“Seas of mud are being washed into the rivers. There is major silt and pollution going in to rivers because proper procedures are not being adhered to.”

The protesters called for a halt to the felling until proper protection is put in to stop the environmental damage.

But Coillte said its forests have been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) since 2001 as being managed responsibly.

“FSC certification mean that our forest management meets strict environmental, social and economic criteria,” the spokesperson said.

“Coillte recently introduced new mountain bike trails in the Ballyhoura mountains. These trails are the largest of their kind in Ireland and have provided the local community with world class recreation activities in their local forest.”

Coillte is the biggest landowner in Ireland. It owns over 445,000 hectares – about 7% of the total land cover in Ireland – of which 79% is forested.

Its net assets last year were worth an estimated 1.5 billion euros and its profits were 40.1m euros. The group employs about 1,000 people. Eoin English

© Irish Examiner



  1. Coillte is a commercial business, as as such does not need to answer to critics on how it runs its business. The fact that it consistently receives certification should be enough comfort for anyone with the audacity to interfere in a private company’s matters.

  2. hear about! Now appear the real spirit of FSC and the certificated
    companies. Nobody is responsibly for anything….
    how You are, why don’t You give Your name or Your interest…. But very interesting,
    -the FSC is not responsibly for what does the Company.
    The companies are not responsibly for what the certifier do,
    the certifier are not responsibly for what the company do and what the FSC maybe wish…
    hm, running perfect this fraud system, i am really happy.
    WWF and GP, please start to open Your eyes and dont hide any longer Your paradox.
    You are, for a part, responsibly for this! So pelase saay to the world, what You want; Fundrasiing or protect the forests (but take care: for both reasons You must leave FSC asap!

    Something is terrible wrong in the system…..

  3. Yeah, a private company using public resources, public land and the very air that we breathe. I take very little comfort in your view of corporate governance.

  4. I am absolutely horrifed by what I see here in these photographs. I never really understood what ‘rape of nature’ meant, now I know. Its disgusting.

    As for Mr.Crannfear (Tree man?), I see he is very much on Coillte’s side, but as far as I know Coillte ‘manage’ i million acres of the land of Ireland for the people of Ireland. They are a semi state body, entrusted with the job of looking after our trees, our land, our rivers, our lakes, our mountains.

    We, the people, whose resource this is, must absolutely keep as close an eye as we possibly can on Coillte. Mr. Crannfear whose lovely Gaelic name, identifies him with trees, must know that?

    Very interesting posting. Thank you FSC Watch.
    Maura Burke, Tipperary.

  5. Hmm,

    Bad things happen – ‘the best laid plans of mice and men’ and all that sort of thing.

    Living and working in Scotland and dealing with similar sites and species that Coillte deal with, I have some sympathy for the forester responsible for this mess.

    I remember once (long before the FSC came on the scene) I had a difficult site to harvest – it included a small water catchment area for a couple of cottages. So I consulted the locals, planned with the harvesting manager how I would lay out the site and decided that we would wait until June (traditionally the driest time of year on the West Coast of Scotland).

    Suffice to say that we had the wettest June on record (And boy did I check the records!) and the place turned into a cross between a battlefield and a sort of silvicultural Venice. I had to urgently get a digger in and clean drains. I placed bales of hay and straw in the ditches to soak up the silt and rearrange the harvesting. I also had to go, cap in hand, to the cottagers and apologise for their dirty water. Fortunately everyone was very sympathetic (they weren’t enjoying the summer either!), and ultimately no harm was done. However it was (for me) rather embarrassing, and a lesson well learned.

    This mess photographed above should not have happened, of course, but what is more worrying is that there is no machinery on site trying to clean up. A digger should be present lifting the mud out of the ditch and scraping the road at least. Silt traps are a method of repair but the ones needed here would have to be pretty substantial. It seems clear that forwarding and haulage have continued in circumstances when it should not have.

    If I were the forester responsible for this I’d be in fear of my job. Clearly inadequate (or ignorant) supervision has been at work here. One would hope to at least see the forester standing in a hollow square of foresters (a’la a court martial) having his buttons ripped off his tweed jacket and thrown on the ground.

    However the Irish have a certain reputation. I remember employing (again long before FSC came into being) an Irish squad once and during the pre-start meeting I impressed upon the contractor the importance of keeping the watercourses clear of debris, not felling trees across them, not crossing them with their machinery, not allowing any silt into the water and so on. This appeared to be radical new thinking to him and he seemed frankly astonished at this. His astonishment however, was nothing to mine when he informed me that in Ireland he viewed it as common practice to drive machinery up the watercourses as ‘they had good hard bottoms’.

    On a brighter note:

    I’ve just consulted the FSC 10 principles and Criteria, and I see that the human rights of indigenous peoples only are protected. So the forester who is responsible for this CAN be shot and the forest may remain certified. A comforting loophole, I think



  6. Humm indeed!

    Coillte Teo was established by the 1988 Forestry Act as ‘The State Forestry Board’ and the shares are held solely by two Ministers.

    Coillte Teo has been twice ruled to be a public authority by the EU Court of Justice and agreed to act as such in relation to Access to Information on the Environment in a binding 2005 High Court Order – reinforced by a stinging indictment by the Irish Information Commissioner in 2006.

    As the second EU Judgment said, ‘Neither the company’s obligation to manage its affairs on a commercial basis nor the fact, alleged by Ireland, that the State does not, in practice, intervene in the company’s management can prevail over the finding that the company is wholly owned and controlled by the State and that the State could therefore intervene.’ [C-339/00]

    See the current Irish NGO Forestry Network Newsletter 178

    and specifically the article on Coillte Teo’s legal status

    This site is one of many that we have recorded over the last two years and is the norm, not the exception, in these sensitive locations.


  7. Sorry if this causes a rumble, but in my opinion the FSC is the only really culpable organisation here. The clear photographic evidence of non-compliance is there for them to see. If they continue to certify this kind of behaviour then they are ultimately responsible for the damage. In the cold light of day if the company is clutching FSC certification in their sweaty little hands, they are legally covered. Any fool knows that a ‘certificate’ is a magic cloak of invincibility to a government or private company. So, The FSC must strip away the cloak and leave them nowhere to hide. It is a moral and legal obligation.

  8. Unfortunately the FSC process in Ireland and the Coillte environmentally disasterous unsustaiable foresrty management practices is propped up by a number of large so-called ‘ecological environmental non governmental oranisations’ without whose support we might have moved from the Sitka Spruce monoculture to a biodiversity based approach. Perhaps the Examiner newspaper would take their investigations a stage further and investigate the why and the wherefore of this support. Representatives of these EENGOs sit on a governmental appointed consultative body which it would appear may very well it would appear from our information, recommend the perpetuation of the status quo in Irish Forestry.
    Forest Friends Ireland as well as other environmental forestry groups have consistently opposed the FSC certification of Coillte in the first place and the continued renewal of this certification. We commend the efforts of Friends of the Irish Ennvironment,the Woodland League, People against Pesticides and the Native Woodland Trust to name a few of these groups who have consistently advocated Sustainble Forestry which to be so must be one based entirely on biodiversity of native Irish species. We have visited some of the worst examples of Coillte’s destructive practices and would urge all environmental groups to request the FSC to withdraw Coillte’s certification until it meets their own principles. Forest Friends have produced a video on the subject which can be viewed from the home page of our web site
    John haughton for Forest Friends/Cáirde na Coille


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