FOREST owners in the county may be included in a Knowledge Transfer Group to be funded by the Department of Agriculture.
The Clare Timber Producer Group will be holding meetings in Kilkishen Cultural Centre on Wednesday night next and the Fiddle Head in Kilmihil on December 12 to outline the draft pilot project, identify forest owners willing to participate and gather feedback to develop the project with the department.
The department is proposing that participants will receive expenses for taking part in the pilot project.
Welcoming the inclusion of Clare in the pilot project, Brian Meaney, secretary of the Clare Timber Producer Group, stated, “This is an opportunity to increase the level of forest management activity among participants of the project, realising and improving the value of their forests and will ultimately benefit all forest owners in County Clare.
“It is also important to develop a forest owners group in Clare to operate as a collective to improve financial return from farm forestry, to develop a discussion group to identify best practice in farm forestry and to advocate the interests of farm forest owners in the county.”
Mr Meaney said farm forest owners are working in an environment that can be unfriendly and in some cases, hostile, as outlined in a recent Primetime report on RTÉ.
“We are also operating in a background where there is no tradition of forestry and we, as forest owners, have to begin to address this. Farm forest owners in Clare need to be proud of their forest holdings and realise their value from an environmental, social and economic perspective. Our forests are a huge carbon sink and the day is not too far away when forest owners will be paid for the amount of carbon they absorb.
“In 2012, 52.3 thousand hectares (16.4%) of County Clare was under forest, 21,089 hectares of this area is private forestry (6.6% of the county area). The area involved is not inconsequential and a substantial amount of this planting was undertaken in the late 1980s and early ’90s due to the favourable grant schemes available at that time for the establishment of forestry. A lot of this wood is now approaching harvesting age and we need to plan to exploit the economic, social and environmental potential this resource could provide to the local economy.
“The private forestry sector is only beginning to develop and it is vital that value can be added to the timber extracted from Clare forests. Nationally, by 2028, annual timber production from the private forest sector is forecast to increase eightfold, to over 3.2 million cubic metres. Clare has the highest rate of private forestry ownership per capita nationally and it is reasonable to assume this increase in production will be experienced in County Clare,” concluded Mr Meaney.