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Forestry - A real alternative land use for farmers

Speaking at the Small-Scale Forestry and Rural Development Conference which was opened in Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology today, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food, Mary Wallace T.D., said "wherever we have forests, we will have options: options for jobs, for exports, for energy, for biodiversity, for the environment, for rural communities. Previous generations of planters have given us those options".

The Minister went on to say that it was up to us to ensure that future generations continue to have such options, by continuing a vigorous afforestation programme.

The Minister said that forests are truly "multi-functional" and commented that while the growing demands for environmental compatibility may be seen by some as restricting the economic potential of forestry, she believes that it offers greater opportunities.

She went on to say that we need to look at how we value the very many non-timber benefits of our forests and how the public good they represent can be realised to the benefit of all.

She pointed out that the average new forestry plantation is now around 8 hectares and that most of this planting is carried out by farmers. This provides a real alternative land use option for farmers as the pattern of traditional Irish agriculture changes.

Speakers at the week-long conference from countries such as Scotland, Norway, Portugal and Italy will help to inform the debate in Ireland on the best way forward for small-scale forestry.

19 June, 2006

Date Released: 19 June 2006