In the run up to the Northern Ireland Assembly election in May, three of the political parties pledged to increase forest cover in Northern Ireland. At the Trust we welcomed the strong democratic mandate tree planting enjoys at Stormont and called for an ambitious woodland creation target in order to set the trajectory towards the ultimate aim of doubling forest cover.
We were therefore taken aback to discover recently that Forest Service, the agency charged with delivering forestry policy in Northern Ireland, had decided shortly after the election to more than halve its short-term woodland creation target. Not only does this decision contradict the Executive’s commitment to double forest area over the next 50 years, it also undermines the environmental platform on which so many MLAs (Members of Legislative Assembly) stood.
Our concerns were highlighted by the Belfast News Letter this week. In the coming months we will be campaigning for a more ambitious tree planting target in the forthcoming Programme for Government. Our fear is that without a suitably ambitious target, the Executive will be unable to deliver on the public’s wish to see a far more wooded landscape in Northern Ireland.
** Latest news! ** (August 2011)
Following significant media coverage – including pieces in our daily News Letter and BBC News – the Minister has agreed to review the target this autumn.
Watch our Northern Ireland Director in a BBC interview here: www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-14382092
Lee Bruce, Government Affairs Officer