The Environmental Pillar of social partnership has called on Fine Gael and Labour to restate their commitment to the continued public ownership of Coillte. This follows Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin’s indications that he would not delay in moving on the sale of state assets identified in the recent McCarthy Report.
Speaking on behalf of the Environmental Pillar, Andrew St Ledger, of the Center for Environmental Living and Training (CELT), comments: “Ireland cannot afford to lose its 1.1 million acres public forest estate in these difficult times. The cash generated from the sale of Coillte will be a meagre drop in the ocean of debt that Ireland owes, and it makes no sense to sell an asset that managed differently can potentially earn the State a sustainable income in the long run, to help pay off its debts.”
Andrew St Ledger, one of the co-authors of the Environmental Pillar’s Treecover Policy, claims that “the current forestry model has been very one-dimensional and therefore very restrictive. The Environmental Pillar believes that there is an opportunity to create a new forestry model which is multi-dimensional and will lead to increased rural development by harnessing the EU Rural Development funding that exists to develop such a sustainable treecover/forestry plan.”
The policy calls for the continued public ownership of State forestry. The potential for sustainable forestry is examined, with recommendations that a viable industry with long-term employment opportunities could be established within five to ten years.
In April 2009, Minister for the Environment John Gormley announced the inclusion of environmental groups as part of the Social Partnership process to “ensure that economic decisions have at their very core the concept of sustainability.” The Environmental Pillar has twenty-seven member groups.